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101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: March 13, 2015, 12:22:25 PM
"When men exercise their reason coolly and freely, on a variety of distinct questions, they inevitably fall into different opinions, on some of them. When they are governed by a common passion, their opinions if they are so to be called, will be the same." --James Madison, Federalist No. 50, 1788
102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: You guys are wrong 2.0 on: March 13, 2015, 12:18:41 PM
The Producer Price Index Declined 0.5% in February To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 3/13/2015

The Producer Price Index (PPI) declined 0.5% in February, coming in below the consensus expected gain of 0.3%. Producer prices are down 0.7% versus a year ago.
Food prices fell 1.6% in February while energy prices were unchanged. Producer prices excluding food and energy declined 0.5% in February, led by service prices.
In the past year, prices for services are up 1.3%, while prices for goods are down 4.3%. Private capital equipment prices declined 0.3% in February but are up 0.7% in the past year.

Prices for intermediate processed goods declined 0.6% in February, and are down 6.5% versus a year ago. Prices for intermediate unprocessed goods fell 3.9% in February, and are down 25.0% versus a year ago.

Implications: If you’re looking for inflation, you’re not going to find it in producer prices, at least not yet. Producer prices fell 0.5% in February following a 0.8% drop in January. As a result, producer prices are down 0.7% from a year ago. The huge drop in energy prices since mid-2014 is the key reason producer prices are down in the past year. Energy prices are down 22.4% from a year ago, while everything excluding energy is up 1%. This suggests that when oil prices stabilize for a prolonged period of time that the overall producer price index will start rising again. However, that didn’t happen in February as prices for services fell 0.5%, the largest one-month decline since the new series began in 2009. The decline in services was led by trade services, which measure changes in the margins received by wholesalers and retailers. Prices for goods also fell in February, and have now declined for eight consecutive months. Most of the decline in goods prices in February can be attributed to food, which fell 1.6%. The new version of the producer prices index, which includes services, appears to be much more volatile than the old one, which suggests analysts and investors should not reach conclusions based on short-term gyrations in the numbers, including the fact that overall prices are now down from a year ago. Monetary policy remains loose and will continue to be loose even when the Federal Reserve starts raising rates this June. For this reason, these rate hikes will not hurt the economy. Fed policy will not become tight for at least a few years. Counter-intuitively, higher short term rates may boost lending as potential borrowers hurry up their plans to avoid even higher interest rates further down the road. In other words, the Plow Horse economy won’t stop when the Fed shifts gears. As a result, we believe producer price inflation will soon go positive again and then gradually move higher from there. In the meantime, prices further up the production pipeline remain subdued. Prices for intermediate processed goods are down 6.5% in the past year while prices for unprocessed goods are down 25%. Regardless, with the labor market improving, we still believe the Fed is on track to start raising rates in June.
103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: March 13, 2015, 10:18:01 AM
March 13, 2015
Hey, Virginia Republicans, were you looking forward to voting in the 2016 presidential primary? Eh, we may not have one. Read all about the big decision facing the Old Dominion GOP.

Yup. Hillary Chose to Delete Consequential E-Mails

A lot of folks in Right-world think this is an extremely consequential revelation about the Clintons:

The Clintons play by their own set of rules. And in this case, the former Secretary of State explained, those rules bless her decision to erase some 30,000 emails from the family server despite knowing that the emails had become a subject of intense interest to congressional investigators. These were merely “private personal emails,” Clinton averred, “emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes.” After she finished taking questions, Clinton’s staff disclosed that no one actually read through those 30,000-odd documents before she “chose not to keep” them.

As for why this might “seem like an issue,” the answer is not complicated. All federal employees have a legal obligation to preserve their work-related email–and the White House advises appointees to accomplish this by using official government addresses. Email sent to and from .gov accounts is generally archived. In this way, a consistent level of security is maintained. The nation’s history is preserved. Open-records laws are honored. And transparency gets a leg up on “Trust me.”

All this once made sense to Clinton. As a candidate for President in 2008, she included “secret White House email accounts” as part of her critique of the Bush Administration’s “stunning record of secrecy and corruption.” Now, however, Clinton is leaning heavily on “Trust me.” For more than a year after she left office in 2013, she did not transfer work-related email from her private account to the State Department. She commissioned a review of the 62,320 messages in her account only after the department–spurred by the congressional investigation–asked her to do so. And this review did not involve opening and reading each email; instead, Clinton’s lawyers created a list of names and keywords related to her work and searched for those. Slightly more than half the total cache–31,830 emails–did not contain any of the search terms, according to Clinton’s staff, so they were deemed to be “private, personal records.”

This strikes experts as a haphazard way of analyzing documents. Jason R. Baron, a former lawyer at the National Archives and Records Administration who is now an attorney in the Washington office of Drinker Biddle & Reath, says, “I would question why lawyers for Secretary Clinton would use keyword searching, a method known to be fraught with limitations, to determine which of the emails with a address pertained to government business. Any and all State Department activities–not just communications involving the keywords Benghazi or Libya–would potentially make an email a federal record. Given the high stakes involved, I would have imagined staff could have simply conducted a manual review of every document. Using keywords as a shortcut unfortunately leaves the process open to being second-guessed.”
Wait, there’s more, as Allahpundit explains:

Until last year, if you wanted to access State Department e-mail remotely, you needed a secure Blackberry issued by State for that purpose. And that Blackberry only handled department e-mail, i.e. State e-mail accounts actually did require a dedicated device. Apparently Hillary was right in thinking that, if she wanted to read private e-mail too, she really would have had to carry a second device.

But rather than do that and endure the hardship of fitting two four-ounce smartphones in her purse instead of one, she chose to defy security protocols and conduct all of her business, work and personal, from her unsecured private device. She didn’t care enough about security to have an official State e-mail account created for her in the first place so why would she care enough to read sensitive messages on an official, secured State Blackberry?

That adds a whole new level of risk to her e-mail habits, actually, since she was presumably using her personal Blackberry for work during overseas trips, when she was at
greater risk from foreign surveillance. Between that and the fact that State IT techs warned her about the vulnerability of her private server, there’s really no question that she knowingly, willingly created a major hole in national security simply because her selfish political desire to keep her messages away from the voting public was more important to her.

Yes, this blatantly violates the legal requirements.

I want to believe this will have serious consequences. But I don’t.

Who will run a serious investigation of Hillary Clinton over this? Our incoming attorney general? The confirmation vote is next week. Has any GOP senator even questioned Loretta Lynch whether she thinks this is a serious violation of the law and if, or how, the Department of Justice would investigate?

Do you think there’s a single U.S. Attorney -- all of whom were appointed by President Obama -- who wants to prosecute the Democratic presidential frontrunner?

Do you think there’s a jury that would convict her?
104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: March 13, 2015, 04:32:23 AM
Iran Occupies Iraq
As the U.S. leads from behind, Tehran creates a Shiite arc of power.
Photo: Getty Images
March 11, 2015 7:21 p.m. ET

While Washington focuses on Iran-U.S. nuclear talks, the Islamic Republic is making a major but little-noticed strategic advance. Iran’s forces are quietly occupying more of Iraq in a way that could soon make its neighbor a de facto Shiite satellite of Tehran.

That’s the larger import of the dominant role Iran and its Shiite militia proxies are playing in the military offensive to take back territory from the Islamic State, or ISIS. The first battle is over the Sunni-majority city of Tikrit, and while the Iraqi army is playing a role, the dominant forces are Shiite militias supplied and coordinated from Iran. This includes the Badr Brigades that U.S. troops fought so hard to put down in Baghdad during the 2007 surge.

The Shiite militias are being organized under a new Iraqi government office led by Abu Mahdi Mohandes, an Iraqi with close ties to Iran. Mr. Mohandes is working closely with the most powerful military official in Iran and Iraq—the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran’s official news agency last week confirmed Western media reports that Gen. Soleimani is “supervising” the attack against Islamic State.

This is the same general who aided the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq. Quds Force operatives supplied the most advanced IEDs, which could penetrate armor and were the deadliest in Iraq. One former U.S. general who served in Iraq estimates that Iran was responsible for about one-third of U.S. casualties during the war, which would mean nearly 1,500 deaths.

Mr. Soleimani recently declared that Islamic State’s days in Iraq are “finished,” adding that Iran will lead the liberation of Tikrit, Mosul and then all of Anbar province. While this is a boast that seeks to diminish the role of other countries, especially the U.S., it reveals Iran’s ambitions and its desire to capitalize when Islamic State is pushed out of Anbar province.

The irony is that critics long complained that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 created a strategic opening for Iran. But the 2007 surge defeated the Shiite militias and helped Sunni tribal sheikhs oust al Qaeda from Anbar. U.S. forces provided a rough balancing while they stayed in Iraq through 2011. But once they departed on President Obama’s orders, the Iraq government tilted again to Iran and against the Sunni minority.

Iran’s military surge is now possible because of the vacuum created by the failure of the U.S. to deploy ground troops or rally a coalition of forces from surrounding Sunni states to fight Islamic State. With ISIS on the march last year, desperate Iraqis and even the Kurds turned to Iran and Gen. Soleimani for help. The U.S. air strikes have been crucial to pinning down Islamic State forces, but Iran is benefitting on the ground.

The strategic implications of this Iranian advance are enormous. Iran already had political sway over most of Shiite southern Iraq. Its militias may now have the ability to control much of Sunni-dominated Anbar, especially if they use the chaos to kill moderate Sunnis. Iran is essentially building an arc of dominance from Tehran through Baghdad and Damascus to Beirut on the Mediterranean.

This advance is all the more startling because it is occurring with tacit U.S. encouragement amid crunch time in the U.S.-Iran nuclear talks. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, competed last week with Gen. Soleimani’s anti-ISIS boasts by touting U.S. bombing. But this week he called Iran’s military “activities” against ISIS “a positive thing.” U.S. civilian officials are publicly mute or privately supportive of Iran.

While Islamic State must be destroyed, its replacement by an Iran-Shiite suzerainty won’t lead to stability. Iran’s desire to dominate the region flows from its tradition of Persian imperialism compounded by its post-1979 revolutionary zeal. This week it elected hardline cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi to choose Iran’s next Supreme Leader.

The Sunni states in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf are watching all of this and may conclude that a new U.S.-Iran condominium threatens their interests. They will assess a U.S.-Iran nuclear deal in this context, making them all the more likely to seek their own nuclear deterrent. They may also be inclined to stoke another anti-Shiite insurgency in Syria and western Iraq.

All of this is one more consequence of America leading from behind. The best way to defeat Islamic State would be for the U.S. to assemble a coalition of Iraqis, Kurds and neighboring Sunni countries led by U.S. special forces that minimized the role of Iran. Such a Sunni force would first roll back ISIS from Iraq and then take on ISIS and the Assad government in Syria. The latter goal in particular would meet Turkey’s test for participating, but the Obama Administration has refused lest it upset Iran.

The result is that an enemy of the U.S. with American blood on its hands is taking a giant step toward becoming the dominant power in the Middle East.
Popular on WSJ

105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 30,000 deleted emails were unread on: March 13, 2015, 03:46:19 AM
106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on the Judiciary, 1821 on: March 12, 2015, 08:26:54 PM
"The germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal judiciary; an irresponsible body, (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow) working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped from the States, and the government of all be consolidated into one." --Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Charles Hammond, 1821
107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: March 12, 2015, 08:04:26 PM
108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: March 12, 2015, 08:00:30 PM
People are going to want someone of whom they have already heard, and who the hell is O'Malley?

Not only is she a woman, but Warren is the darling of the Dem-Progressive base.  They will work hard for her.

109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I like the way this guy thinks! on: March 12, 2015, 07:58:18 PM
"When I was serving with the U.S. Army in Baghdad during 04-05 I thought we should give the northern region to the Kurds, the west to Kuwait as reparation for the invasion in 91, and the eastern region to Iran in return for stoping their nuclear program."
110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: March 12, 2015, 02:54:34 PM
"(S)tep aside gracefully"?

 cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy
111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Arab parties about to become a factor in the Knesset? on: March 12, 2015, 11:39:22 AM
The Arab Joint List Is Reshaping Israeli Politics

How Ayman Odeh could end up leading the opposition after next week’s legislative elections in Israel
By David B. Green|March 12, 2015 12:00 AM|Comments

Until a month ago, it looked as if Israel’s Arab parties might be denied a place in the 20th Knesset. In March 2014, the Knesset had passed the “Governance Bill,” which raises the threshold a party needs to meet in order to enter the legislature. While in past elections, a party needed to attract 2 percent of the vote (equivalent to three Knesset seats), the new bill pushed that up to 3.25 percent (equal to four seats).

The outgoing Knesset has three Arab, or mostly Arab, parties, two of which—Hadash, the former Communist party, and Balad, a secular Arab-nationalist list—would not meet the requirements under the new law. The third list, Ra’am-Ta’al, would make the cut only because it is really two parties—the Islamic Ra’am, and Ta’al, a moderate, secular party represented in parliament by Ahmed Tibi—who have hooked up in past elections for the purpose of not falling below the required percentage.

There is no doubt that the Governance Bill was intended to keep tiny parties, the kind that often form around a single issue or a narrow population group, out of the Knesset, a change that would increase the stability of government coalitions, since it reduces the possibility of small parties—including religious parties—holding the government hostage to attain its support for their limited goals. At the same time, however, it was widely understood that the bill—which was co-sponsored by Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, whose Moldavian-born leader appears to take pleasure in denigrating Israel’s Arab citizens—was an indirect attempt to push the Arab parties, none of which have ever been invited to join a coalition, out of Israel’s legislature altogether. For them, the new threshold seemed to pose an outright threat of extinction, especially given the shrinking rate of participation among eligible Arab voters.

Now, however, less than a week before the March 17 snap election, a very different scenario looks to be emerging. If the polls suggesting that the Arab voting rate could surge back above the 70 percent level are correct, the so-called Arab sector could find itself in a position of political influence it has never before enjoyed. Recent polls suggest that the number of representatives it will have in the new Knesset could reach 13 or more—and not in spite of the Governance Bill, but in large part thanks to it.

“They didn’t have much choice,” says sociologist Sammy Smooha about the decision to unite. Smooha, a professor at Haifa University, has been surveying the Arab public about its political attitudes since 2003. He notes that another possibility would have been for the four parties to split off into two joint lists—and negotiations to that effect did go on—but he says that “all the surveys around, for the last 15 years, showed that a joint list is the first choice of the Arab public.”

Yet no matter how much they may all “look alike” to some Israeli Jews, the country’s Arab citizens are no less fractious than the Jews are: Their political parties range, as noted, from being internationalist, Communist-lite (Hadash) to moderate Islamists (Ra’am; the more extreme Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement won’t participate in national elections) to Balad, probably the Middle East’s only remaining pan-Arab party.

The announcement that an alliance had been formed came only on Jan. 22, less than a week before the final deadline for parties to submit their lists of candidates for the March 17 election. Obviously, a candidate’s place on the list determines his or her chances of being elected, but no less tricky than determining the order of the list was the drafting of an eight-point platform that the Joint List’s four constituent parties—with their widely differing voter bases and philosophies—could all sign on to. Among those points are a demand for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of two states, including full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-Six Day War borders and realization of a Palestinian right of return; recognition of Israel’s Arab population as a national minority, which is to be afforded cultural, religious, and educational autonomy; and the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. Other elements in what admittedly sounds more like a wish list than a practical program include a commitment to fight poverty and to raise the minimum wage and full equality for women in all areas of life.

Considering that two of the Joint List’s candidates are polygamists—not uncommon among Israel’s Bedouin population even though state law forbids it—and that its members from the Balad party advocate a state “of all its citizens,” by which they mean a binational state without any special Jewish identity or Law of Return, the agreement on a common platform is also quite an accomplishment. In particular, the insistence on equality for women is not to be taken for granted in the more traditional parts of Muslim Arab society.

A lot of credit for the creation of the list must go to the very visible man at its head, Ayman Odeh. A 40-year-old lawyer from Haifa, Odeh has been the secretary of Hadash since 2006, but this will be the first time he is (presumably) elected to Knesset. For more than a decade, Odeh has led a campaign among Arab youth to discourage them from volunteering for civilian national service in its current form, which is to say, as an alternative to military service, a program that is supervised by the Defense Ministry.

When I interviewed him on the subject three years ago he told me, “I have no problem with a young person volunteering in a hospital in Tel Aviv… Ahlan Usahlan,” using the Arabic expression meaning “Welcome.” His objection, rather, was to the nature of the changes being discussed at the time, starting with the proposal to make participation mandatory, not voluntary.

But that was just the start of his objections. My sense was that at the heart of all the opposition was the fact that a Knesset committee made up solely of Jewish politicians was discussing instituting a program that would be imposed on the Arab minority, without including any members of that minority in the planning process.

Next Tuesday’s election will lead either to a right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, a center-left government led by Yitzhak Herzog’s Zionist Camp (a cooperative venture of the Labor Party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party), or a “unity government,” in which Netanyahu and Herzog agree to share power and work together, maybe even by rotating the office of prime minister between them. Hard as it may be to imagine that last scenario, and as much as it may seem to presage political paralysis in terms of the numbers, a unity government may be the most likely outcome to an election out of which left- and right-wing camps seem destined to emerge with roughly the same number of seats.

If that is the case, the possibility exists that the official opposition, which is always led by the largest party not in the coalition, could be headed by the Joint List. By law, the prime minister is obligated to brief the opposition leader on the state of affairs once a month. Considering that Arabs have never been allowed to sit on the sensitive subcommittees of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, for fear they can’t be trusted with state secrets, it’s hard to imagine Benjamin Netanyahu, for example, briefing Opposition Leader Ayman Odeh on plans for bombing Iranian nuclear facilities.

The only way that Herzog would be able to form a center-left coalition is with the support of the Arab Joint List, which would have to recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that Herzog form the government. In the past, none of the Arab parties has participated in the process of making a recommendation to the president. While Odeh has said explicitly that his list “will not sit in a coalition”—no Arab party would want to share ministerial responsibility for the next war—he has, however, hinted strongly that the Joint List could support a Herzog-led government “from the outside,” which would mean voting with the coalition in the Knesset without formally joining it.

Interviewed in late February on Israel’s TV Channel 1, Odeh declared that, “We really truly want to influence. … If we find a partner who will agree to our demands of peace and of equality between Jews and Arabs, we will be able to support them.” For those Arabs and Jews who see a peaceful future for Israel dependent on cooperation between the two groups, the prospect of the Joint List supporting a coalition from the outside, and of Arab List MKs even playing leadership roles on Knesset committees and subcommittees, would be welcome.

But being a player, after close to seven decades of being the perennial outside, will take some adjusting. Despite the reconciliatory noises made by Odeh to the Hebrew-language press during the campaign (he’s comfortable enough in the language and culture of the Jewish majority that he will pepper his comments with Talmudic quotes, or analogies from Zionist history), a failure by the Arab List to agree to an excess vote-sharing arrangement with Meretz last week was a sign that not all of the list’s members have the same approach to cooperation. Meretz is a Zionist party, but it has always supported a two-state solution and taken a progressive stance on issues of economic equality, human rights, and other subjects of crucial importance to most Arabs. In short, it shares a lot of positions with the Joint List. Nonetheless, the latter decided not to go with Meretz on an excess-vote arrangement, reportedly because of the objections of Balad, which according to one account was not willing in principle to sign a deal with a Zionist party, but according to another feared it would drive away voters.

Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon, whose party is now polling at five seats, which puts it uncomfortably close to the threshold, was sharp in her criticism of the Joint List. “Meretz has proved that it is the only party that believes in true Jewish-Arab solidarity. I hope this isn’t the decision that will condemn us to another four years of Netanyahu’s rule,” she warned.

In the end, Meretz signed a sharing deal with the Zionist Camp, but its preference would have been the Joint List, which didn’t sign an agreement with anyone. The loss of the potential extra seat that having such a pooling arrangement could yield could determine what sort of government emerges from the election. No matter what its composition, that government may now have to reckon with the representatives of Israel’s Arab population in a new way.
112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gowdy goes after Hillary's aides' emails on: March 12, 2015, 11:19:17 AM

If Hillary Clinton thinks the scandal will end when she turns all of her email over — it won't.

The House Select Committee on Benghazi will soon move to obtain private emails from as many as 10 of her top aides from her time as secretary of state.

"That's great when you email other people on the .gov it would be captured by the .gov server, but if you're talking to people private to private that will never be captured," Rep. Trey Gowdy, the committee chairman, said.

"We are going to seek any private email that relates to official business, and I don't care about wedding cakes, but any work that could have been done on private-to-private accounts for those State Department employees we know had private accounts," the South Carolina Republican told CNN on Tuesday.

The committee will seek emails related to official government business from people like Cheryl Mills, Clinton's chief of staff at the State Department, then-deputy chief of staff Jake Sullivan and longtime aide Huma Aberdin, according to Gowdy.

"She said she went through and produced all public information — and I am not in the habit of accusing people of being untruthful unless I have evidence to the contrary — but she's essentially asking us to take her word for it," Gowdy said.

According to Gowdy, it is too early to tell if a subpoena will be needed.

Gowdy, who has already said publicly gaps of months and months exist in her emails, reconfirmed this to CNN.

For example, the Benghazi committee received no emails from the Clinton camp about her October 2011 trip to Libya — despite the well-known photo of her en route, sitting on a plane with her Blackberry in hand and sunglasses on.

"It wouldn't be reasonable that she was on her way to Libya to discuss Libyan policy and there are no emails from that trip," Gowdy said, explaining the Benghazi committee only has jurisdiction over emails regarding Libya.

"With respect to materials that the select committee has requested, the department has stated that just under 300 emails related to Libya were provided by the department to the select committee in response to a November 2014 letter, which contained a broader request for materials than prior requests from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee," a statement released Tuesday by Clinton's office said.

"Given Secretary Clinton¹s practice of emailing department officials on their addresses, the department already had, and had already provided, the select committee with emails from Secretary Clinton in August 2014 — prior to requesting and receiving printed copies of her emails," the statement said.


Some inferences as to what those email might contain:

Emails obtained through a federal lawsuit show that two top aides to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were running interference internally during the 2012 Benghazi terror attack.

The aides were Philippe Reines, widely described as Clinton’s principal gate-keeper, and Cheryl Mills, who has been at Clinton's side for decades.

The emails show that while receiving updates about the assault as it happened, Mills told then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland to stop answering reporter questions about the status of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was missing and later found dead.

Also littered throughout the State Department emails, obtained by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, are references to a so-called Benghazi Group. A diplomatic source told Fox News that was code inside the department for the so-called Cheryl Mills task force, whose job was damage control.

The effort to stop Nuland from answering reporter questions also may have contributed to confusion over the nature of the attack. Clinton that night had put out the first statement wrongly linking the attack to a supposed protest sparked by an obscure, anti-Islam YouTube video – but that was never updated that night.

"Cheryl Mills was instrumental in making sure the big lie was put out there,"  Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said.

Judicial Watch obtained the State Department emails through legal action. "What's notable thus far is we received no emails from or to [Hillary Clinton],” he said. “You have to wonder whether these aides went offline and were using secret accounts to communicate with her about Benghazi attack."

The emails emerged as Clinton fields criticism over revelations that she used personal email during her tenure as secretary. She is now asking the department to make public thousands of emails she has turned over.

On Friday, the State Department spokeswoman was pushed to explain how they will review the Clinton emails under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, and what will be made public.

"We will use FOIA standards for the review,"  spokeswoman Marie Harf said. "What we determine is appropriate under those FOIA standards will be public."

Harf also was questioned on a State Department unclassified cable, obtained exclusively by Fox News. The cable shows in 2011, Clinton's office told employees not to use personal email for government business, citing security reasons -- while she carried out government business exclusively on private accounts.

"This isn't her best practice guidance,” Harf said. “Her name is at the bottom of the cable, as is practiced for cables coming from Washington … some think she wrote it, which is not accurate."

Nevertheless, cables sent under Clinton's electronic signature carry her authority. 

Mills, meanwhile, is a focus of the select congressional committee investigating the Benghazi attacks. During congressional testimony, retired Adm. Mike Mullen, who helped lead the Accountability Review Board investigation into the attacks, confirmed under cross-examination that he personally warned Mills that a witness would be damaging to the department.

Critics say it is more evidence the Accountability Review Board, or ARB, was deeply flawed.

Fox News' Pamela Browne contributed to this report
113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACTION items on: March 12, 2015, 10:50:03 AM
IIRC she has not ruled it out.
114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Condi Rice for US Senate from CA on: March 12, 2015, 09:19:11 AM
115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Larry Elder: The Farcical Ferguson Report on: March 12, 2015, 09:17:50 AM
116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: March 11, 2015, 09:09:15 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) — How Hillary Rodham Clinton’s statements about her exclusive use of private email instead of a government account as secretary of state compare with the known facts:

CLINTON: “Others had done it.”

THE FACTS: Although email practices varied among her predecessors, Clinton is the only secretary of state known to have conducted all official unclassified government business on a private email address. Years earlier, when emailing was not the ubiquitous practice it is now among high officials, Colin Powell used both a government and a private account. It’s a striking departure from the norm for top officials to rely exclusively on private email for official business.

CLINTON: “I fully complied with every rule I was governed by.”

THE FACTS: At the very least, Clinton appears to have violated what the White House has called “very specific guidance” that officials should use government email to conduct business.

Clinton provided no details about whether she had initially consulted with the department or other government officials before using the private email system. She did not answer several questions about whether she sought any clearances before she began relying exclusively on private emails for government business.

Federal officials are allowed to communicate on private email and are generally allowed to conduct government business in those exchanges, but that ability is constrained, both by federal regulations and by their supervisors.

Federal law during Clinton’s tenure called for the archiving of such private email records when used for government work, but did not set out clear rules or punishments for violations until rules were tightened in November. In 2011, when Clinton was secretary, a cable from her office sent to all employees advised them to avoid conducting any official business on their private email accounts because of targeting by unspecified “online adversaries.”

CLINTON: “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.”

THE FACTS: The assertion fits with the facts as known but skirts the issue of exchanging information in a private account that, while falling below the level of classified, is still sensitive.

The State Department and other national security agencies have specified rules for the handling of such sensitive material, which could affect national security, diplomatic and privacy concerns, and may include material such as personnel, medical and law enforcement data. In reviewing the 30,000 emails she turned over to the State Department, officials are looking for any security lapses concerning sensitive but unclassified material that may have been disclosed.

CLINTON: “It had numerous safeguards. It was on property guarded by the Secret Service. And there were no security breaches.”

THE FACTS: While Clinton’s server was physically guarded by the Secret Service, she provided no evidence it hadn’t been compromised by hackers or foreign adversaries. She also didn’t detail who administered the email system, if it received appropriate software security updates, or if it was monitored routinely for unauthorized access.

Clinton also didn’t answer whether the homebrew computer system on her property had the same level of safeguards provided at professional data facilities, such as regulated temperatures, offsite backups, generators in case of power outages and fire-suppression systems. It was unclear what, if any, encryption software Clinton’s server may have used to communicate with U.S. government email accounts.

Recent high-profile breaches, including at Sony Pictures Entertainment, have raised scrutiny on how well corporations and private individuals protect their computer networks from attack.

CLINTON: “When I got to work as secretary of state, I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two. Looking back, it would’ve been better if I’d simply used a second email account and carried a second phone, but at the time, this didn’t seem like an issue.”

THE FACTS: If multiple devices were an inconvenience in the past, they may be something of an obsession now. Clinton told an event in California’s Silicon Valley last month that she has an iPad, a mini-iPad, an iPhone and a BlackBerry. “I’m like two steps short of a hoarder,” she said. She suggested she started out in Washington with a BlackBerry but her devices grew in number.

Smartphones were capable of multiple emails when she became secretary; it’s not clear whether the particular phone she used then was permitted to do so under State Department rules.


117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A brief history of Hillary's lies on: March 11, 2015, 08:46:56 PM
118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Judge Posner dissents againt Voter ID. on: March 11, 2015, 08:41:42 PM
I have tremendous respect for Judge Posner, but I gotta say, this really surprises me.
119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / It isn't the emails, it's the corruption on: March 11, 2015, 06:36:46 PM
second post

It Isn't the E-Mails, It's the Corruption: Congress Has to Find All the Facts

Hillary Clinton held her first press conference in years yesterday to address a few of the questions everyone wants to ask about her emails. But the focus on Clinton’s emails misses the larger and more dangerous scandal, of which the private server is only a symptom.

The poorly-defended personal server in her closet, her use of a personal email account for all of her official business, her unilateral decision to erase more than 30,000 emails, her narrow definition of "official" as emails sent to U.S. federal government addresses (when several of her top aides also used personal email accounts) – are all outrageous, yes. But none of these go to the heart of the Clinton scandal.

The key fact is that a former president of the United States and his wife, a U.S. senator, then Secretary of State and always a possible future president, have raised nearly $2 billion dollars--a significant part of it from foreign governments--for their family foundation.

That figure actually understates the total amount of money flowing through the Clinton empire since they left the White House. There have been extraordinarily highly paid speeches and consulting gigs. There have been extraordinarily large book advances (the most recent of which almost certainly did not earn back the advance). There have been expensive trips on private planes and yachts to stay at private mansions.

The IRS has investigated churches and Tea Party groups run by grandmothers to determine the extent of their political activities. The FBI has investigated Republican governors for corruption or abuse of office on the most tenuous grounds.

Yet apparently neither has any interest in the $2 billion raised for the personal foundation of America’s most prominent political family.

Given the national security issues at stake--and the national security consequences that may already have occurred--Congress needs to look at questions much larger than Hillary’s email. It needs to look at the Clinton Foundation’s income and expenditures. Because the Clintons didn't just raise $2 billion. They also spent $2 billion.

Who gave the money is one question.

Who got the money is another question.

Whom did they favor with their largesse? What personal business transactions occurred parallel to foundation activities?

You may think that these questions are grasping at straws. But consider Breitbart’s report about Peter Schweizer’s new book, which will be published in May. Schweizer spent a year investigating the Clinton empire. Among his findings, according to Breitbart:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s brother, Tony Rodham, sat on the board of a self-described mining company that in 2012 received one of only two ‘gold exploitation permits’ from the Haitian government—the first issued in over 50 years.

The tiny North Carolina company, VCS Mining, also included on its board Bill Clinton’s co-chair of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), former Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

...VCS’s coveted gold mining exploitation permit was apparently such a sweetheart deal that it outraged the Haitian senate, since royalties to be paid to the Haitian government were only 2.5%, a sum mining experts say is at least half the standard rate.

The State Department directed billions of dollars in aid to Haiti while Hillary was secretary. The Clinton Foundation directed many millions more. Bill Clinton also co-founded the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund which directed an additional half-billion dollars of donations to Haiti. Bill Clinton was also named the U.N. special envoy to Haiti.

It is a surpassing coincidence that Hillary’s brother suddenly decided to enter the mining business in Haiti and that the company on whose board he sat received a very favorable mining deal from the Haitian government.
Schweizer wrote me that this "gold mine is a minor revelation." He further wrote that the scale of Clinton corruption "is scary stuff."

Of course, we know that many foreign countries have given the Clinton Foundation millions of dollars directly, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Algeria, Australia, Germany, and Norway, among others. As the San Diego Union-Tribune put it in a recent editorial:
This may be legal, but it reeks. It could not be more obvious that foreign governments are attempting to buy favor with former President Bill Clinton and possible future President Hillary Clinton. The Clintons can’t make the stench go away with their assurances that the de facto bribes were used to help worthy causes.

The House and Senate Judiciary Committees should undertake comprehensive investigations.

We need to know when meetings were held, when money in every form (speech, consulting, book, gift, travel, foundation, campaign) came in, what the various interlocking interests of the donors were, how the money was spent, and what side deals went on between the donors, the beneficiaries and the various members of the Clinton world.

When people can see the chart and timeline (and it will be enormous because raising and spending $2 billion requires a lot of relationships and activities) they will begin to see the scale of dishonesty, self-dealing, and corruption that is sure to be at the heart of the Clinton empire.

In addition to understanding the Clintons, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees need to write new laws updating and enforcing the Constitutional prohibition on foreign governments giving money to federal officials.

This explosion of foreign money into our political system is a dangerous threat to American independence and to the self-government of the American people. It must be investigated and stopped.
Your Friend,

Marc Denny No doubt our friends who are so excited about the Citizens United case will be exponentially more so with regard to this matter and will have no more to do with Hillary Clinton.
120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama betrays Israel to enable Iranian nukes? on: March 11, 2015, 06:26:28 PM
Any confirmation on this?

Officials from the Islamic Republic of Iran claim they have documents that prove the United States assisted Israel in its development of a hydrogen bomb, which they claim is a crime according to international laws, according to the Iranian news media. And there is suspicion that President Barack Obama declassified the documents and released them to a left-wing think-tank to hurt Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Iranians published a copy of a 129-page memorandum they claim is one of about 100 copies distributed by the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) while under contract with the Pentagon in 1987. The Iranian press reported that Israeli nuclear facilities that were built independently were similar in structure to U.S. nuclear facilities such as Los Alamos and Oak Ridge National Laboratories which are key facilities for creating and testing nuclear weaponry, Iranian-controlled news agencies reported.

But according to Veterans Today, there are rumors in the Pentagon that President Barack Obama was the person who ordered his minions to release the documents claiming the United States had allowed Israel to conduct not only nuclear espionage and openly sell nuclear weapons technology, but they received illegal American financial aid to build the nuclear weapon. VT claims that Obama’s release of the documents was in reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the U.S. Congress in March. Not surprising is the fact that few, if any, American news media outlets covered the story.

“What we see here is a possibility that Obama and the Iranians conspired to hurt Netanyahu and Israel since they oppose a U.S.-Iran nuclear agreement. It’s a possible conspiracy and the right hand, the U.S., doesn’t have to know what the left hand, Iran, is doing and vice versa for there to be a conspiracy,” Lyle Kaplan a former counterterrorism unit operative and a prosecutor. “It’s a mysterious paradox that most American Jews hold Ronald Reagan in low-regard after he, right or wrong, helped to make Israel a safer nation in a sea of enemies, while they appear to love Barack Obama who has disrespected Israel and favors the Jewish State’s enemies,” Kaplan noted.

The report titled, “Critical Technology Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations,” claims that Israel’s nuclear facilities were advanced enough for them to formulate, design and build nuclear weapons. The Israelis were “developing the kind of codes which will enable them to make hydrogen bombs. That is, codes which detail fission and fusion processes on a microscopic and macroscopic level,” the report states.
121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hide and Seek w Hillary's Server on: March 11, 2015, 06:05:19 PM
122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Rand Paul reading this forum! on: March 11, 2015, 04:55:42 PM
Of course with the snarkiness of CNN worked in , , ,

Washington (CNN)Sen. Rand Paul wants to give the Kurds their own country.

The Kentucky Republican, who is inching closer to a bid for president, said Tuesday in an interview with Breitbart that he believes the U.S. should not only directly arm Kurdish fighters, but also promise the Kurds "a country." Paul acknowledged that turning the Kurdistan region into a country would be easier said than done, but touted the benefits of his proposal.

"I think they would fight like hell if we promised them a country," Paul said, adding that a Kurdish country would also end the longstanding feud between the Kurds and Turkey.

The Kurds are an ethnic minority who primarily live in a region that spans Iraq, Turkey and Syria and various Kurdish factions have called for -- and sometimes fought for -- an independent, sovereign Kurdistan for more than 100 years.

The rise of ISIS in the region has also bolstered the Kurds' stature on the international stage as Kurdish fighters proved to be the most effective ground force in repelling ISIS's advance as Iraqi government forces collapsed in the north. With air support from the U.S.-led coalition and American weapons funneled through the Iraqi government, the Kurds retook the city of Kobani in Syria, which was nearly entirely under ISIS's control at one point.

Paul has joined the chorus of Republicans calling for the U.S. to directly arm the Kurds without passing through the Iraqi government, but he has now taken a step further by calling for Kurdish independence. It's a move that would certainly upset Iraq's government in Baghdad, which is struggling to hold together a fractious and complex coalition of Sunnis, Shias and Kurds to keep the country in one piece.

But Paul's call for the Kurds to get their own country also comes two weeks after the the libertarian-leaning senator called at CPAC for a U.S. foreign policy "unencumbered by nation-building" -- indicating a departure from the neoconservative foreign policy that defined George W. Bush's presidency.

It's just another sign Paul is still trying to find his footing in his high-wire act of foreign policy.

Paul began distancing himself from his more isolationist foreign policy positions as 2016 neared and as a reinvigorated security and terrorism threat emerged in the guise of ISIS. Now, Paul is pushing a more stronghanded foreign policy that would rely on a robust military and project strength abroad.

123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Grover Norquist and the Muslim Brotherhood on: March 11, 2015, 04:50:39 PM
124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / REv. Al's hot hands on: March 11, 2015, 12:48:34 PM
Sorry about the formatting here, it will be easier to read at 

 Blogs Authors Topics Magazine Subscribe Login Suspicious Fires Twice Destroyed Key Sharpton Records By Jillian Kay Melchior That Iran letter, &c., by Jay Nordlinger,  And he didn’t comply with tax and campaign filing requirements.

As Al Sharpton ran for mayor of New York City in 1997 and for president in 2003, fires at his offices reportedly destroyed critical financial records, and he subsequently failed to comply with tax and campaign filing requirements. The first fire began in the early hours of April 10, 1997, in a hair-and-nail salon one floor below Sharpton’s campaign headquarters at 70 West 125th Street. From the start, investigators deemed the fire “suspicious” because of “a heavy volume of fire on arrival” and because many of the doors remained unlocked after hours, according to the New York Fire Department’s fire-and-incident report. As the fire crept upward into Sharpton’s headquarters, it destroyed nearly everything, including computers, files, and campaign records, the Reverend’s spokesperson at the time told Newsday, adding that “we have lost our entire Manhattan operation.”

But a source knowledgeable about the investigation tells National Review Online that Sharpton’s office was mostly empty, and that the damage was not extensive. Top city officials, including then-mayor Rudy Giuliani, said initial suspicions centered on the hair-and-nail salon, not on Sharpton’s campaign, Newsday reported. The fire department sent the case as an arson/explosion investigation to the New York Police Department. By the time of publication of this report, the NYPD had not provided the records requested by National Review Online on December 16, 2014, but it confirmed that the investigation had been closed without an arrest. More Al Sharpton How the Obama-Sharpton Alliance Began Eric Garner's Daughter: Al Sharpton 'All About the Money' Busted FDNY’s report references a “flammable liquid,” and firefighters’ photos of the scene show traces of an incendiary puddle.

Another photo captures what appears to be a singed rag that someone is holding next to a fuse box, perhaps because that is where it was found. But a 2003 Newsday article says “the 1997 fire started when a curling iron overheated in an adjoining beauty parlor.” NRO could find no other sources referencing a curling iron as the cause, and the fire department’s reports make no mention of it, either. View slideshow of FDNY fire investigations As the mayoral campaign continued, Sharpton missed tax and campaign disclosure deadlines. The 1997 fire occurred five days before Tax Day and, the New York Post reported, “just after Sharpton announced that he would open his financial records.” After the fire, Sharpton said he would seek an extension because crucial financial records had been destroyed. It’s unclear whether that extension was granted. In July 1997, Sharpton also missed the deadline to file his personal financial-disclosure forms with the New York City Conflict of Interests Board, violating a legal requirement and risking a fine of up to $10,000. He said the destruction of records in the fire had prevented him from filing. When Sharpton finally filed a year later, in July 1998 — months after the November 4, 1997 elections — he paid a $100 late fee.

It’s unclear what information his filing did or did not contain; in accordance with Section 12-110(f) of the administrative code, the board shredded Sharpton’s financial-disclosure forms more than a decade ago. More Al Sharpton How the Obama-Sharpton Alliance Began Eric Garner's Daughter: Al Sharpton 'All About the Money' Busted During the campaign, Sharpton criticized his opponents for having a “penthouse mentality,” calling one a “limousine liberal.” But while his competitors had voluntarily released their income-tax returns to the media, Sharpton had not even filed his yet, much less publicly disclosed them, Newsday noted. He finally filed his tax returns on August 15, publicly offering only estimates of his earnings that year, which he said were between $50,000 and $60,000. A New York Daily News report a few weeks later alleged that Sharpton owed $100,000 in overdue federal and state taxes and fines, reportedly prompting him to finally release his tax records. A federal tax lien assessed in 2005 also estimated that Sharpton’s nonprofit, National Action Network, owed more than $15,000 for 1997. In early September 1997, the New York City Campaign Finance Board cited Sharpton for accepting political contributions in excess of the limits established in the Campaign Finance Act, the New York Daily News reported.

Six years later, on January 23, 2003 — one day after Sharpton filed paperwork to create a presidential exploratory committee — another fire caused heavy damage at National Action Network, located at 1941 Madison Avenue. (The Federal Election Commission (FEC) later determined that Sharpton had actually become a candidate no later than October 2002, although, contrary to law, he had not filed his statement of candidacy until April 2003.) The battalion chief who responded to the fire initially coded it as suspicious. On the fire-and-incident report, the cause of fire is designated as “NFA [Not Fully Ascertained] — Heat from electrical equipment (Extension Cords).” But by the evening of January 24, the chief fire marshal told the New York Times that “both an eyewitness account and a physical examination by fire marshals point to the cause as accidental.”

Nevertheless, significant oddities surrounded both the fire and the investigation, and the story of the key eyewitness had some holes that were apparently never addressed. James Kelty, a supervising fire marshal who responded to the 2003 fire, tells NRO he was unexpectedly relieved from the fire investigation. “I was on the fire, and then I wasn’t on the fire; I was on the fire scene, and then I was no longer at the fire scene,” he says, adding that it was unusual. When NRO told him that the investigative report was only six pages long and accompanied by 38 photographs, Kelty said: “Big fires and fires involving prominent people are generally much more exhaustive. Thirty-eight photos are a drop in the bucket, especially given Sharpton’s notoriety and given the fact that he was running for U.S. president.” View slideshow of FDNY fire investigations According to the fire-and-incident report, a maintenance man named J. D. Livingston discovered the fire. (His name is listed in the report as both Joseph Dennis Livingstone and Joseph D. Livingston.) Livingston, who immigrated to the United States from Guyana, died in March 2014. U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement confirmed to NRO that he was living in the U.S. illegally after overstaying his visa, though it’s unclear when it expired. Carl Redding, who worked with Sharpton but publicly criticized him after a personal falling out, tells me Sharpton paid Livingston under the table. “I always heard that he was unofficially homeless and ended up living at the [National Action] Network,” Redding says.

Another source close to Sharpton described Livingston as a good man who was fiercely loyal to, and heavily dependent on, Sharpton. He said he saw Sharpton pay Livingston in cash, and also alleged that Livingston was living in the office of National Action Network. In an interview with NRO, Sharpton says Livingston “did some side work with me, and that’s all that I’m willing to say about someone deceased.” He adds: “I didn’t pay anyone under the table. Under what table?” Sharpton says Livingston’s wages were reported and covered in a tax repayment. He refused to show NRO any proof, saying he would “absolutely not” give records for “someone who’s deceased and can’t give permission.” As for Livingston living at National Action Network, Sharpton says, “not to my knowledge.” According to the fire-and-incident report, Livingston’s interview with fire investigators occurred “in the presence of his attorney, Michael Hardy,” who is also Sharpton’s longtime lawyer. Kelty, the fire marshal who was at the scene initially, tells me that it’s routine for fire marshals to speak with maintenance men or superintendents to collect information about the building. He also said it’s critically important for fire investigators to speak to the first person at the scene of a fire — in this case, Livingston. Kelty adds, “I could probably count on my hand — and have fingers left over — how many times I have talked to a superintendent or maintenance worker and had an attorney there. It’s just extremely unusual.”

The FDNY report recounts the story Livingston told the fire investigators in the first of two interviews: [Livingston] states that he is an employee of the Reverend Al Sharpton and arrived at work at approx. 7:55 a.m. He states that the downstairs doors were unlocked when he arrived and that wasn’t unusual. He then went upstairs where he unlocked the door to the office. He then entered and immediately locked the door behind him. He states that he went down the hall to check that area and turn on the lights. He then went back into the reception area and entered the Main Speaking Hall to plug in his cell phone. He then went through the reception area to Rev. Sharpton’s Office to check it and turn the lights on. He said that when he left his office, he closed the door. He then states that he went to the bathroom area that was down the hall to start replenishing the bathroom supplies. While doing that he said he heard a noise coming from the reception room and thought it might be Rev. Sharpton’s secretary (Sylvia Matthews) knocking on the door. He states he checked the office entrance door, but no one was there. He then noticed smoke and fire on the floor next to the reception desk. He then went into the stairwell and began banging on the gate that leads upstairs to let whoever was up there know that there was a fire. He then went downstairs to warn them in the restaurant and asked [cook] Rapica Persaud to call 911. A couple of potential inconsistencies stick out: First, Livingston says it “wasn’t unusual” for the downstairs doors to be unlocked — even though the office was in a relatively high-crime neighborhood, and even though Livingston in the rest of his account describes unlocking and relocking a door within the office. Livingston’s account also puts him in the reception area where at least four times he says the fire started. Livingston told the cook downstairs to call 911 at approximately 8:15 a.m., the report says. The report places the incident time as 8:29; the FDNY prides itself on arriving at fires within minutes of a 911 call, and the report makes no mention of any delay in response. In other words, Livingston’s account suggests that he must have caught the fire almost immediately, given that he had been back and forth through the reception area so frequently that morning. The report also makes no mention of Livingston’s trying to extinguish the fire. Both the photos and the report indicate that the blaze had grown massive — in discussing them, Kelty described it as a “well-progressed, rapidly advanced fire” — by the time firefighters arrived. According to the fire report, the first firefighter upstairs saw “the second floor entrance door was left open with heavy fire showing in the reception room. He then states that he immediately closed the door to contain the fire while his company was stretching the line. He also states that they then knocked the fire down in the reception area and then proceeded to the main hall where there was also a heavy volume of fire.”

Discussing the interviews with both Livingston and the first firefighter on the scene, Kelty says: “These interviews are not consistent. Usually, any maintenance person or any super, if an incident like this did occur — they notice that there’s some kind of fire by the reception area. They’d normally tell you they’d rush to try to get something to put the fire out, still call the fire department, but try to extinguish the fire. Regardless, we’re normally there around four to five minutes after the transmission of a fire alarm, and we have a heavy volume of fire upon arrival at National Action Network. That’s not normal fire behavior. To me, it strikes me as odd. It doesn’t mean that could not have happened, but it’s unusual.”

Another source close to Sharpton says: It’s very fishy. It doesn’t make sense, and it never made sense. The fact that Livingston was living there — I think probably Sharpton or somebody in that camp said, “Just make this a fire.” After the fires, there was a lot of discussion about, “We can’t do this,” asking for delays because our paperwork was there in the filing cabinets, and they allegedly got destroyed. A lot of pertinent paperwork and accounting stuff was there. Now, everyone who knew J.D. knew that he was a great individual and a nice human being, but I also think he was desperate, in the sense that he needed Sharpton to survive. And that makes me concerned that if you have that kind of reliance on an individual, maybe things went awry. (By his death, Livingston had risen to become a producer for Gary Byrd’s radio show and a beloved community activist, known for ending conversations with “thank you for your kindness,” according to affectionate obituaries and tributes online.)

Though the chief fire marshal later told reporters the investigators had ruled out arson, suspicions still abounded in the neighborhood, according to news accounts. “The fact that a day after [Sharpton] announces he’s running for president his place burns down?” one National Action Network member told the New York Times. “I don’t buy it. They couldn’t sell me on that.” “It was accidentally on purpose,” the New York Times quoted another neighbor saying, adding that his comments “echo[ed] the sentiments of nearly every person interviewed near the burned-out headquarters of the National Action Network.” Another bystander said, “I just have the feeling that something more is going on. I don’t believe the excuse they gave. Even if it was the power cord, someone could have hooked up the cord to set the place on fire.” It’s unclear whether most of these spectators thought the fire was an attack against Al Sharpton or an inside job.

Even Sharpton himself seemed to hint at arson, according to news reports of a church service he held at the Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church days after the fire. “They can burn up buildings, but they didn’t burn down the dream, and the dreamers are still here,” Sharpton said, according to a Newsday report. “It will take more than a fire to in any way quell the desire we have to give new leadership and new direction to this country.” Newsday also noted that after the sermon, “Sharpton said he had raised $12,000 in cash and an additional $13,000 in pledges.” At a January 25 rally, SEIU Local 1199 donated $25,000 and supplied office space for National Action Network, The Final Call reported, and the Nation of Islam also gave $1,000. “Sharpton raised several thousand dollars,” the article says. As National Action Network raised money to rebuild, Sharpton continued his presidential campaign, violating several laws, many of which were related to poor record-keeping and book-keeping, according to an April 2009 FEC conciliation agreement. The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) filed two complaints with the FEC, helping trigger an investigation into Sharpton’s presidential campaign. The FEC later found that both National Action Network and other entities had illegally paid for travel expenses incurred by Sharpton’s campaign, in part because “Sharpton 2004 kept poor records of its activities and expenditures.” The FEC’s conciliation agreement says that $65,000 in campaign expenses charged to Sharpton’s personal credit card came from unknown sources. It also says an additional $209,677 in unreported in-kind contributions came from Sharpton’s for-profit entity Rev. Al’s Productions. (In 2004, Sharpton told the New York Times that Rev. Al’s Productions was a subsidiary of another one of his entities, Rev. Al’s Communications.) Rev. Al’s Productions, as well as another company called Sharpton Media Group, were “two unincorporated wholly owned, sole proprietorships founded by Sharpton” that “serves as vehicles for Sharpton’s entrepreneurial activities and has no staff, maintains no overhead, and pays all of their profits to Sharpton in the form of dividends, which he claims as income in his personal tax filings,” according to the conciliation agreement. So who was paying Rev. Al’s Communications money that eventually ended up at the campaign? That’s unclear, because Sharpton’s lawyer Michael Hardy said that the fire had destroyed honorarium records for the company. The National Legal and Policy Center suggested in its complaint to the FEC that some of the money may have come from two affluent Sharpton campaign supporters, La-Van Hawkins and his wife, Wendy. The FEC later determined that, in addition to giving the maximum $2,000-per-person donation, Wendy and La-Van had flown Sharpton to Atlanta on a private jet owned by their company, Hawkins Food Group, and thrown him a lavish fundraising event there, featuring crab cakes, beef tenderloin, and $200 bottles of Cristal. The FEC determined that this amounted to more than $10,750 in prohibited in-kind contributions from the Hawkins and Hawkins Food Group. Though the FEC did not address this issue in its conciliation agreement, the NLPC also claimed that Hawkins Food Group had given Sharpton a $25,000 consulting fee before the fire. And in 2008, La-Van Hawkins told the New York Post from a South Dakota federal prison, where he’d been sent for attempted bribery, that he had given both a $25,000 annual consulting fee to Sharpton and “over $1 million” to National Action Network. “There was nothing disclosed by the Sharpton campaign to describe the type of ‘consulting’ Sharpton may have provided Mr. Hawkins’ company in return for the $25,000 payment,” the NLPC wrote. “Perhaps the contract and supporting documents were lost in the fire. . . . The payment by an individual who subsequently became a major donor and then some to Sharpton’s campaign is all the more questionable given the statement by the Sharpton campaign that records for some of his ‘consulting’ work were destroyed in a fire which also destroyed other records about honoraria and income earned by Sharpton.”

New York State eventually dissolved Rev. Al’s Communications in 2009 for failure to pay taxes. From its 1999 founding to 2002, the for-profit entity either failed to file or failed to pay taxes, and by January 2003, the company had managed to run up more than $226,000 in tax debt, according to federal liens. In 2002, the year before the fire, New York had also dissolved Sharpton’s other company, Raw Talent, for tax problems; it owed $589,453 in federal taxes and $4,834 in state taxes, according to a 2007 lien and New York tax warrants. Meanwhile, Delaware dissolved Sharpton Media Group in 2007 for failure to file tax records, though the entity remains active in New York despite state corporate law. National Action Network’s annual tax filings show Sharpton Media Group had loaned the nonprofit tens of thousands of dollars. As Sharpton ran for president, he submitted several FEC filings late. One of them, filed in July 2003, revealed that the IRS had opened a federal tax audit into Sharpton, examining his finances throughout the 1990s, according to a July 12, 2003, New York Times report.

It was not the first time Sharpton had been under scrutiny; in 1990, he was acquitted of 67 counts, including larceny and fraud. Three years later, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after failing to file state income taxes, with the state dropping two felony charges in exchange, the New York Times reported. The IRS investigation lasted for years, and Sharpton continued to cite the fires in connection with it, according to a New York Daily News report. The paper noted that “Sharpton and [National Action Network] owe several million dollars in back taxes, but Sharpton attributed the problem to a fire at his Harlem headquarters that destroyed many records.” By 2008, the IRS dropped its criminal probe, reaching a settlement with Sharpton and his entities of “between $2 million and $9 million,” the New York Daily News reported. Based on the NLPC complaints, the FEC eventually reached two conciliation agreements with Sharpton. It fined him $5,500 for failing to file his statements of candidacy on time, and an additional $208,000 for violating campaign-finance laws by “failing to file complete and accurate reports disclosing all of the Committee’s receipts and expenditures” and “knowingly accepting excessive and prohibited in-kind contributions.” It also fined National Action Network and Sharpton $77,000 for making prohibited contributions to his campaign. The FEC’s latter conciliation agreement notes that it “does not establish or mean that any of the violations were knowing and willful.” Sharpton tells NRO that as part of the settlement with both the IRS and the FEC, “whatever was lost [in the fires] was reconstructed through bank records and whatever else they required. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have made an agreement.” The IRS settlement is not public record, and the conciliation agreement makes no mention of records lost in the fire and subsequently reconstructed. Sharpton also says he did not recall whether he received insurance payments for either fire. “Whatever we got, we got,” he says. “I have no idea.” But some of Sharpton’s former confidants still have questions about the fires and the records they destroyed. “It was always suspicious — it was always suspicious, to this day,” says Carl Redding, the former Sharpton staffer who has publicly criticized him. He adds: “All I could do was just go by whatever the police reports would say. . . . It always seemed like it just died out. There was never any serious questions raised about what happened” in both fires. Then again, it has happened before that two accidental fires hit the same establishment, says Joe Sesniak, a public-information officer for the International Association of Arson Investigators. From just fire-and-incident reports, he says, it’s hard to draw a conclusion. “Some people, if they didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck at all,” Sesniak says. “But sometimes, well, it’s not really a coincidence. Knowing what caused the fire depends on the nature of the investigation, the level of training, and the experience of the investigators.” So is Sharpton simply unlucky? “I would say,” Sharpton tells NRO, “that you could speak to people that would certainly, whoever they are, could have their views.”

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125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Story, 1833 on: March 11, 2015, 11:15:21 AM
"Without justice being freely, fully, and impartially administered, neither our persons, nor our rights, nor our property, can be protected. And if these, or either of them, are regulated by no certain laws, and are subject to no certain principles, and are held by no certain tenure, and are redressed, when violated, by no certain remedies, society fails of all its value; and men may as well return to a state of savage and barbarous independence." --Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Scholarly Flaws of Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" on: March 11, 2015, 11:13:23 AM
A contrary POV no doubt, but the man has resume and I found it interesting to read his take on the book that got me started with the term "Liberal Fascism"
The Scholarly Flaws of "Liberal Fascism"

by Robert Paxton
Robert Paxton is emeritus professor of history at Columbia University. His latest book is Anatomy of Fascism (Vintage, 2005).

Jonah Goldberg tells us he wrote this book to get even.  The liberals started it by “insist[ing] that conservatism has connections with fascism” (p.  22).  Conservatives “sit dumbfounded by the nastiness of the slander” (p.  1).   “The left wields the term fascism like a cudgel” (p.  3).   So Jonah Goldberg has decided it is time to turn the tables and show that “the liberal closet has its own skeletons” (p.  22).   After years of being “called a fascist and a Nazi by smug, liberal know-nothings” he decides that “responding to this slander is a point of personal privilege” (p.  392).

Feeling oneself a victim is wonderfully liberating.  Anything goes.  So Jonah Goldberg pulls out all the stops to show that fascism “is not a phenomenon of the right at all.  It is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left” (p.  7).  The reader perceives at once that Goldberg likes to put things into rigid boxes: right and left, conservative and liberal, fascist and non-fascist.  He doesn’t leave room for such complexities as convergences, middle grounds, or evolution over time.  Thus Father Coughlin was always a man of the left, and so was Mussolini (Giacomo Matteotti or the Rosselli brothers, leaders of the Italian left whom Mussolini had assassinated, would have been scandalized by this view).  The very mention of a “Third Way” puts one instantly into the fascist box.

That’s too bad, because there really is a subject here.  Fascism – a political latecomer that adapted anti-socialism to a mass electorate, using means that often owed nothing to conservatism – drew on both right and left, and tried to transcend that bitter division in a purified, invigorated, expansionist national community.  A sensitive analysis of what fascism drew from all quarters of the political spectrum would be a valuable project.  It is not Jonah Goldberg’s project.

The bottom line is that Goldberg wants to attach a defaming epithet to liberals and the left, to “put the brown shirt on [your] opponents,” as he accuses the liberals of doing (p.  392).  He goes about this task with a massive apparatus of scholarly citations and quotations.  But Goldberg’s scholarship is not an even-handed search for understanding, following the best evidence fully and open-mindedly wherever it might lead.  He chooses his scholarly data selectively and sometimes misleadingly in the service of his demonstration.

Jonah Goldberg knows that making the Progressives, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and FDR the creators of an American fascism – indeed the only American fascism, for George Lincoln Rockwell and other overt American fascist or Nazi sympathizers are totally absent from this book – is a stretch, so he has created a new box: Liberal Fascism.  The Progressives and their heirs who wanted to use government to rectify social and economic ills, and who, in Goldberg’s view, thereby created an American Fascism, acted with good intentions, rarely used violence, and had nothing to do with Auschwitz.  Even so, they share an intellectual heredity and a set of common goals with the European fascists.  So they go into the “Liberal Fascist” box.

Liberal Fascism is an oxymoron, of course.  A fascism that means no harm is a contradiction in terms.  Authentic fascists intend to harm those whom they define as the nation’s internal and external enemies.  Someone who doesn’t intend to harm his or her enemies, and who doesn’t relish doing it violently, isn’t really fascist.

But the problems go much deeper.  Pushing Liberalism and Fascism together requires distorting both terms.  It doesn’t help that these are two of the most problematical words in the political lexicon.  To his credit, Goldberg is aware that the term “liberal” has been corrupted in contemporary American usage.  It ought to mean (and still means in the rest of the world) a principled opposition to state interference in the economy, from Adam Smith to Ronald Reagan.  Goldberg sometimes refers to “classical liberalism” in this sense, and with approval.  Unfortunately he has capitulated to the sloppy current American usage by which “liberal” means, usually pejoratively nowadays, any and all of the various components of the Left, from anarchists and Marxists to moderate Democrats.

Goldberg stereotypes liberals to make them abstract, uniform, robotic.   The telltale phrase is “liberals say” or “liberals think” (mostly without anyone quoted or footnoted).   For example, “Liberals .  .  .  claim” that free-market economics is fascist (p.  22).  Could we please have a few examples of “liberals” who say this? It is a straw man, as is the vast, ghostly “liberal mind” that sounds like a physical reality: “fascism, shorn of the word, endures in the liberal mind” (p.  161).  Does this liberal mind have a telephone number, as Henry Kissinger said famously of the European Union?

This “liberal mind” is a very big tent.  Goldberg believes that moderate reformists are essentially involved in the same project as radical activists.  Bernardine Dohrn, Mark Rudd, Al Gore, Hilary Clinton are all devoted in one way or another to the allegedly fascist project of taking action to make a better world.   

Goldberg makes sure we understand that force and violence are integral to this “liberal” project of state action to improve society.  Robespierre’s terror begins “liberalism” in this sense, and Goldberg attributes  to it a fanciful fifty thousand deaths (the scholarly consensus is 12,000, which is bad enough).  Later he spends a lot of time on the worst excesses of 1960s radicalism, as if the Weathermen and Hilary Clinton belong together as seekers of a new community.

Fascism is given an equally broad definition:  it is any use of state power to make the world better and to create a community.  This is not only too vague to mean much, it is simply wrong.  Authentic fascists have never wanted to make the whole world better.  As uncompromising nationalists, they want to make their own group stronger, purer, and more unified, and establish its domination over inferior groups, by force if necessary.  Goldberg’s real target is state activism, and matters would be much clearer if he had just left it at that.

Having headlined the violent history of “liberalism,” Goldberg soft-pedals that of fascists, especially Mussolini.  There are the ritual references to Auschwitz, but he denies that racial extermination is integral to Nazism by noting how many Progressive reformers fell for Eugenics in the early twentieth century.  His Mussolini – that lifelong “man of the left – is seen largely through the eyes of his many foolish American admirers.  Che Guevara killed more people than Mussolini, he asserts (p.  194).  This is possible only if one leaves out of the picture the murder of over a thousand Italian citizens by the squadristi who brought Mussolini to the brink of power in 1922, or of the Italians’ use of poison gas, forced displacement into camps, and aerial strafing against the populations of Libya and Ethiopia.

Goldberg simply omits those parts of fascist history that fit badly with his demonstration.  His method is to examine fascist rhetoric, but to ignore how fascist movements functioned in practice.  Since the Nazis recruited their first mass following among the economic and social losers of Weimar Germany, they could sound anti-capitalist at the beginning.  Goldberg makes a big thing of the early programs of the Nazi and Italian Fascist Parties, and publishes the Nazi Twenty-five Points as an appendix.  A closer look would show that the Nazis’ anti-capitalism was a selective affair, opposed to international capital and finance capital, department stores and Jewish businesses, but nowhere opposed to private property per se or favorable to a transfer of all the means of production to public ownership.

A still closer look at how the fascist parties obtained power and then exercised power would show how little these early programs corresponded to fascist practice.  Mussolini acquired powerful backing by hiring his black-shirted squadristi out to property owners for the destruction of socialist and Communist unions and parties.  They destroyed the farm workers’ organizations in the Po Valley in 1921-1922 by violent nightly raids that made them the de facto government of northeastern Italy.  Hitler’s brownshirts fought Communists for control of the streets of Berlin, and claimed to be Germany’s best bulwark against the revolutionary threat that still appeared to be growing in 1932.  Goldberg prefers the abstractions of rhetoric to all this history, noting only that fascism and Communism were “rivals.” So his readers will not learn anything about how the Nazis and Italian Fascists got into power or exercised it.

The two fascist chiefs obtained power not by election nor by coup but by invitation from German President Hindenberg and his advisors, and Italian King Victor Emanuel III and his advisors (not a leftist among them).  The two heads of state wanted to harness the fascists’ numbers and energy to their own project of blocking the Marxists, if possible with broad popular support.  This does not mean that fascism and conservatism are identical (they are not), but they have historically found essential interests in common.

Once in power, the two fascist chieftains worked out a fruitful if sometimes contentious relationship with business.  German business had been, as Goldberg correctly notes, distrustful of the early Hitler’s populist rhetoric.  Hitler was certainly not their first choice as head of state, and many of them preferred a trading economy to an autarkic one.  Given their real-life options in 1933, however, the Nazi regulated economy seemed a lesser evil than the economic depression and worker intransigence they had known under Weimar.  They were delighted with Hitler’s abolition of independent labor unions and the right to strike (unmentioned by Goldberg), and profited greatly from his rearmament drive.  All of them would have found ludicrous the notion that the Nazis, once in power, were on the left.  So would the socialist and communist leaders who were the first inhabitants of the Nazi concentration camps (unmentioned by Goldberg).

In the Italian case, Goldberg somehow imagines that Mussolini’s much-vaunted corporatism was a device to subject businessmen to total state control.  Scholars who have looked at the way corporatism actually worked have generally concluded that Italian businessmen simply ran the economy through the corporatist agencies that they easily dominated.  Corporatism – the management of an economy by joint committees of businessmen, labor representatives and government officials who organize the economy sector by sector, to emphasize common interests over class differences – functions quite differently, of course, under different regimes.  In the Italian Fascist case, quite unlike the New Deal, labor representatives were, in the end, excluded from any meaningful role.

Having set up distorted stereotypes of “liberalism” and “fascism” Goldberg finds them united by a host of similar projects such as campaigns against smoking (it was Nazi doctors who first established the link between smoking and cancer, and Hitler was a fanatical anti-smoker).  These similarities concern peripheral matters.  The foundational qualities that separate liberalism from fascism simply vanish from the analysis: political pluralism vs. single party; universal values vs. the supremacy of a master race; elections vs. charismatic leadership; fascism’s exaltation of feelings over reason.

Goldberg has indeed unearthed plenty of skeletons in the liberal closet, such as the Eugenics fad.  Some liberal violations of human rights were temporary, as in war government.  Others were the work of radicals of the left who made war on liberals, hated them, and have no place in an analysis of liberalism properly understood.   

This book is stuffed with references to scholarly work that make it look authoritative.  But when something really surprising comes along, we look in vain for a footnote.  Did Hitler really write a fan letter to that Jew-loving plutocrat FDR in 1935? No footnote.  How do we know that the New Dealer Hugh Johnson read Fascist tracts, and for what purpose (p.  156)?  And that FDR put a hundred thousand American citizens into camps (p.  160)?  Does he mean that C.C.C.? In what sense was “deconstruction” a Nazi coinage (p.  173)?  Goldberg probably means Heidegger, but he wants us to think Goebbels.  Just which proponents of affirmative action claimed that their opponents were on a slippery slope to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and in what words (p.  243)?  Exactly where and when did Al Gore say that global warming is the equivalent of the Holocaust, and what were his actual words (p.  314)?  The list of bombshell remarks smuggled into this text without any reference to a credible source could go on and on.

Goldberg hijacks scholarly work and applies it in misleading ways for his own purposes.  Henry Ashby Turner, Jr., showed conclusively that German businessmen were often skeptical of Hitler in the early days.  Since they gave money to all non-Socialist parties, the small amounts they gave the Nazis prove nothing.  But Turner’s book stops in January 1933.  Goldberg extends Turner’s conclusions misleadingly into the later period, ignoring the way German businessmen adjusted to the new situation.  David Schoenbaum meant his title Hitler’s Social Revolution ironically: Hitler recruited all the losers in Germany’s 1920s crises, and then betrayed them by following policies favorable to big business and big agriculture after January 1933.  Goldberg appropriates this book’s first half misleadingly to support his fantastical conclusion that Hitler was always “a man of the left.”

Jonah Goldberg sometimes sounds sweetly reasonable.  Liberals mean well, they aren’t taking us toward Auschwitz.  The filiation is intellectual, not a matter of exact identity.  Fascism takes a different form in each national setting (very true), and it takes a “softer form” (p.  391) in the United States.   Then he drops the mask and goes on a rant.  In the chapter headings and subheadings – the parts that casual readers will remember -- liberals are fascists pure and simple.   For example: “Franklin Roosevelt’s Fascist New Deal” (p.  121);  “The Great Society: LBJ’s Fascist Utopia” (p.  329), and so on.

While Goldberg is reasonably careful of names, dates, and quotations, his more general judgments often go badly awry.  It is not true that “the hard left had almost nothing to say about Italian Fascism for most of its first decade” (p.  30).  The Third International diagnosed it right away, clumsily, as an agent of capitalism.  The Italian elections of 1924 were not “reasonably fair” (p.  50), for according to the Acerbo Election Law passed at Fascist insistence just beforehand, the leading party would automatically receive two thirds of the parliamentary seats.  It is untrue that Germany spent relatively little on armaments in the first years; they spent as much as they were allowed under the Versailles Treaty, and then arranged secretly for further training and arms development in the Soviet Union (p.  151), a point that ought to suit Goldberg quite well.  Hitler never ever campaigned from the back of an old pickup truck (p.  289).

Jonah Goldberg does not tell us much about his own beliefs, except that he loves America.  But it is clear that he inhabits a world where the sole serious danger to individual and national wellbeing is the state.  No rogue corporations, no drunk drivers, no polluting factories, no well-funded lobbies threaten us, only the state.  Anything that enhances the power and reach of the state is bad, even George W.  Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.”

If you are looking for brickbats to throw at Democrats, reformers, environmentalists and other do-gooders, you will enjoy this book.  If you are looking for some reasoned arguments about the politics of our time, you will find both liberalism and fascism grossly distorted in this tract.


HNN Special: A Symposium on Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism
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127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Even POTH says Judge blocking Obama's EO is fair on: March 11, 2015, 11:03:48 AM
Judge Blocking Plan for Immigrants Is Praised as Fair in Texas

Judge Andrew S. Hanen, left, at a 2005 ceremony at the federal courthouse in Brownsville, Tex. Judge Hanen has been on the bench for almost 13 years. Credit Brad Doherty/Brownsville Herald, via Associated Press

BROWNSVILLE, Tex. — From his bench in a federal courthouse barely a mile from the Rio Grande, Judge Andrew S. Hanen looked over a procession of small-time drug dealers and thieves, each representing a lapse of border enforcement.

In a familiar routine for the judge, he handed out sentences at a hearing last week to convicted criminals who had been deported to Mexico and then sneaked back into the United States. For returning illegally, he sent them to prison for a year or so, and most likely to another deportation. Judge Hanen warned them that their time behind bars would be even longer if they ever came back again.

“I want to be sure you understand that,” he said, looking each man in the eye.

Judge Hanen is now in the middle of a much bigger legal fight, after his Feb. 16 ruling that temporarily halted President Obama’s executive actions to shield millions of unauthorized immigrants from deportation. Among officials from the 26 states bringing the lawsuit, the decision was hailed as a triumph of law over a reckless president. Mr. Obama said he was confident that the administration would eventually prevail.

Judge Hanen came to the Federal District Court here almost 13 years ago from a strait-laced law practice in Houston. His 123-page injunction against the executive actions was informed by a starkly negative view of the Obama administration’s border security efforts. He began to express that perspective after seeing the traffic through his courtroom in this borderland city, where migrants illegally cross every day despite a buildup of fences and agents, while bloody feuds rage among Mexican drug cartels just across the river.

“The court finds that the government’s failure to secure the border has exacerbated illegal immigration into this country,” Judge Hanen said in the February ruling. The states’ coffers were “being drained by the constant influx of illegal immigrants,” he wrote.

Advocates for immigrants who want to see the president’s initiatives go forward have portrayed Judge Hanen, 61, as a right-wing crank. But in Texas he is known as a conservative but fair-minded jurist with keen analytical intelligence — and a jovial sense of humor, even when he is in black robes.

“He is the complete package,” said David Kent, a lawyer in Dallas who was with Judge Hanen in Baylor University’s law school class of 1978; Judge Hanen graduated first in the class. “Absolutely as sharp as could be,” said Mr. Kent, who also clerked at the Texas Supreme Court with him, “and on the personal side so funny, so good-hearted.”

The Obama administration is seeking an emergency stay of Judge Hanen’s injunction. The judge on Monday declined to rule yet on that request, and administration officials said they would probably move their motion to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans this week. Judge Hanen still has to rule on the larger constitutional questions in the states’ challenge. He declined to be interviewed for this article.
Continue reading the main story

Judge Hanen’s decisions gained new importance to Republicans in Congress who are determined to stop the president’s actions, after they failed last week to eliminate funding for the initiatives in the Homeland Security spending bill. Republicans are now looking to the courts to keep Mr. Obama’s programs from taking effect.

Before moving to Brownsville in 2002, Judge Hanen had a comfortable law practice, serving at one time as president of the bar association in Houston. But friends said his upbringing was modest. John Eddie Williams Jr., a high-profile trial lawyer in Houston and another Baylor classmate, said Mr. Hanen had been raised in a bare-bones household in Waco by a single mother.

“In law school, he would wear jeans with holes at the knees, and not because it was fashionable,” Mr. Williams said.

He recalled that the two of them had been in a study group with a classmate named Priscilla Owen. Mr. Hanen was always looking to lighten the studious mood with jokes. Without telling Ms. Owen, he once enrolled her in a Cotton Queen beauty pageant, Mr. Williams said. She was startled to receive several mailings asking for information about her physical endowments, before Mr. Hanen disclosed his prank.

Today Ms. Owen is a federal appeals judge for the Fifth Circuit, the court that will hear the administration’s appeals of Judge Hanen’s decisions in the states’ lawsuit.

Mr. Williams said he differed with Judge Hanen on immigration, supporting Mr. Obama “100 percent.” But he said, “I would disagree with anyone who would say Andy Hanen has any prejudice. His decisions will always be based on sound legal grounds.”

Judge Hanen is one of the few judges ever to be nominated twice to the same court by two presidents: by the first President George Bush in 1992, a nomination never voted on by the Senate, and by President George W. Bush in 2002.

During his years in Brownsville, Judge Hanen has sent a corrupt judge to prison and slogged through dozens of lawsuits over the federal government’s seizure of land to build border fences, leaving his courtroom to visit the boundary so he could see the disputed properties for himself.

But in recent years, Judge Hanen has raised increasingly vivid alarms about what he sees as a porous border and lax enforcement. In December 2013, after sentencing a migrant smuggler, he issued a broadside when he learned that the authorities had delivered a child, the smuggler’s cargo, to the child’s mother, an unauthorized immigrant in Virginia. Judge Hanen accused the administration of “successfully completing the mission of the criminal conspiracy.”
Performers in Brownsville's Charro Days festival, which celebrates the unity of cultures straddling the border. Credit Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

In August, he held forth when a gang member from El Salvador whom he had previously sent to prison turned up in California after deportation and was granted a form of asylum. The administration, he said, “has pulled the pin on a hand grenade and lobbed it into the streets of Los Angeles, with the faint hope it will not go off.”

Judge Hanen supplemented that opinion with charts of the leadership of Mexican drug cartels. “Rewarding gang or cartel members for their own antisocial activities endangers everyone in the United States,” he wrote.

Mr. Obama has suggested that officials in Texas, which is leading the states’ lawsuit, shopped for a sympathetic judge before filing in the Southern District of Texas in Brownsville. In this court, there is no one other than Judge Hanen in a position to hear the case.

Speaking at a town-hall-style meeting in Miami last month, Mr. Obama said he was not surprised by the injunction. “We saw the judge who was rendering the opinion,” the president said.

Michael A. Olivas, a law professor at the University of Houston, said the move by Texas officials was fair play. But he said Judge Hanen was often out of line with his rebukes of Mr. Obama’s policies. “He goes further than he needs to, with intemperate, nonjudicious and nongermane elaborations,” he said.

In South Texas, some leaders said the judge was just responding to the conditions around him.

“That gentleman is constantly hearing the prosecution of drug cartel violence in his courtroom,” said State Representative Eddie Lucio III, a Mexican-American Democrat who lives in Brownsville. “When he says we need to have proper border enforcement, it’s because he sees the worst of it.”

But Brownsville’s mayor, Tony Martinez, also a Democrat, said Judge Hanen had overlooked another side of immigration. It was on full display last month, the mayor said, just around the corner from the courthouse, as the city held its annual festival known as Charro Days, celebrating the unity of cultures straddling the border. Mr. Martinez and Mr. Lucio joined the parade down the main street, dressed in their Mexican cowboy finest.

Mr. Martinez filed papers to the court supporting Mr. Obama’s actions, saying they would improve enforcement by focusing agents on deporting criminals, not peaceable workers.

“We may be two countries,” the mayor said, “but on the border we’re one family.”
128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: March 11, 2015, 10:42:12 AM
Leak Investigation Could Reveal U.S.-Israeli Covert Operation

A leak investigation targeting retired Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright has stalled due to fears that a prosecution could reveal classified information about joint U.S.-Israeli efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. Investigators suspect that Cartwright leaked details of the operation, which used the computer worm Stuxnet to destroy Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, to New York Times reporter David Sanger. However, prosecution could force the government to confirm details of the operation in open court, potentially putting it at odds with the Israeli government, if Israeli officials were opposed to having their role revealed. U.S. officials also fear that it could undermine negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program at a sensitive time.
129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: March 11, 2015, 10:40:58 AM

The center-left Zionist Union has opened up a slim lead against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party in the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 17, according to new polls. The two parties had been virtually tied for weeks, but a new survey by Israel’s army radio found the Zionist Union winning 24 seats, to Likud’s 21. A poll by Channel 2 television, meanwhile, had the Zionist Union winning 25 seats, and Likud winning 21.

There are 120 seats in the Israeli Knesset, and either faction will need to form a coalition with other parties in order to govern. Netanyahu still might have an advantage over his rivals in doing so: Several far-right parties, which would be his natural allies, are expected to capture a significant number of seats. The "swing vote" in the election could be the center-right Kulanu Party headed by Moshe Kahlon, who has not yet indicated which bloc he would support.
130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Georgia under Russian pressure on: March 11, 2015, 09:43:36 AM

As Russian forces consolidate their gains in Ukraine over the flat protests of Western leaders, the specter of Russian revanchism is keeping much of Eastern Europe on edge. But lumbering tanks and legions of insta-separatists aren’t the only concern. Ukraine isn’t Russia’s only target.

Perhaps most alarming are the warning signs going off in Georgia, a steadfast Euro-Atlantic partner where a pro-Western political consensus has long been a foreign-policy calling card. A long-standing opponent of Russian military adventurism, Georgia sought escape velocity from Russian regional dominance by courting membership in Euro-Atlantic structures and earned a reputation as an enthusiastic and credible Western partner. But

    Western quiescence in the face of Russian territorial aggression is starting to have an effect.

Western quiescence in the face of Russian territorial aggression is starting to have an effect. After decades of acrimony in which Georgians have watched Russian proxies occupy 20 percent of their territory and ethnically cleanse some 300,000 of their compatriots, certain groups are starting to ask if maintaining close ties to the West is worth all the loss. Increasingly, Georgians are beginning to think that it isn’t.

The groups spearheading Russian influence operations in Georgia fly beneath the international radar under the cloak of local-language media and the oft-repeated surety of pro-Western sentiment. But they can be seen protesting in Tbilisi streets, preaching in Georgian churches, and holding improbably well-funded campaign rallies ahead of elections. The evidence shows that Russian influence in Georgia is growing stronger. (In the photo, a Stalin impersonator poses at a memorial service for the Soviet dictator in his Georgian hometown of Gori.)

But at Washington roundtables and in private conversations, Western officials and experts tend to downplay the possibility of Russian-exported propaganda taking root in Georgia. The root of this complacency is tied to regular polling from the U.S.-funded International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) that has consistently showed public support for Euro-Atlantic integration at between 60 and 70 percent. Successive governments have relied on this popular approval to justify their Western-facing foreign-policy agendas.

So support for Euro-Atlantic integration is broad. But is it deep? Those who have spent time with ordinary Georgians say the reality, as is often the case, is far more complex.

There, in a scene in the popular Georgian soap opera Chemi Tsolis Dakalebi (My Wife’s Best Friends), revelers at a wedding reception are interrupted by an announcement that Georgia has just been awarded a long-coveted “MAP” (membership action plan), a prelude to NATO membership. The announcement shocks the crowd into a stunned silence, which then gives way to raucous cheers. One character, while clapping and celebrating along with the others, turns to another partygoer and asks: “What’s a MAP?”

While the scene colorfully illuminates NATO’s outsized social, and even civilizational, pull among Georgians, it also suggests a harsher truth: that Georgian society’s Western moorings may be more emotive than well-informed. The headline numbers from public opinion polls don’t tell the whole story. Look deeper into the data, and the picture is much more worrisome.

According to an NDI poll last August, integration with the West was at best a tertiary issue for Georgians. Instead, “kitchen table” issues dominated respondents’ concerns, with worries about jobs (63 percent) and poverty (32 percent) eclipsing other issues. NATO and EU integration came in far behind at 10th and 17th, respectively. And of 21 issues polled, Georgians picked NATO and EU membership as the top issues the government spent too much time discussing.

But most concerning, buried deep in the survey results, were signs of growing support for joining the Eurasian Union, a Moscow-led EU “alternative.” A full 20 percent favored the idea of Georgian membership. This percentage has risen steadily from 11 percent in late 2013 to 16 percent in mid-2014. Who are these Georgians who would surrender their country’s sovereignty to the same power that keeps a steely grip on Georgian territory and carves other neighboring states with impunity?

Part of the answer can be found in a budding segment of the nongovernmental sector, consisting of innocuously named pro-Russian groups like the “Eurasian Institute,” “Eurasian Choice,” and “The Earth Is Our Home.” Many of these organizations pop in and out of existence as needed — the “Peace Committee of Georgia” one week, something else the next — but they are often tied to the same group of pro-Russian ideologues and policy entrepreneurs who make regular pilgrimages to Moscow and, according to Georgian officials in the ruling party and the opposition, almost certainly receive Kremlin funding. Their common message isn’t high-church Russian apologia or Soviet nostalgia, but rather “Eurasianism” and “Orthodox civilization” — Kremlin shorthand for Putinism. Appeals to Georgian social conservatism, economic vulnerability, and lingering anger over past government abuses are winning converts within a population increasingly impatient with Georgia’s unrequited love affair with the West.

In mid-2014, Eurasianist groups made headlines for their raucous opposition to an anti-discrimination bill making its way through the Georgian parliament. Their opposition centered on language in the bill banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which opponents claimed was tantamount to promoting non-heterosexual lifestyles. But they didn’t come to the protests alone — accompanying the pro-Russian activists were unmistakably garbed clerics from the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The church, too, was nonplussed over the anti-discrimination bill and called for language protecting sexual minorities to be ejected. One of the oldest existing Christian churches in the world, the Georgian Orthodox Church is both a touchstone for Georgian nationalism and reliably polls as the most trusted institution in the country. But the church’s common cause with the Eurasianists was not limited to tactical alliances over anti-gay rhetoric. Although nominally in favor of Georgian membership in the European Union, influential factions within the Orthodox hierarchy openly stoke religious nationalism and express admiration for Russia.

Today, church representatives are increasingly seen as a vanguard for reactionary activity. In mid-2013, clergy members were on the front lines of a horrifying anti-gay pogrom in central Tbilisi. Church officials have justified protests against and attacks on Georgian Muslims. And church leaders have called the West “worse than Russia,” sometimes describing the 2008 Russian invasion as a kind of heavenly intervention against Western integration. Such language is echoed by Georgia’s Eurasianist NGOs.

The growing profile of pro-Russian organizations and the sharpening anti-Western stance of the church is converging with a third leg in an emerging pro-Russian triad: the revitalization of anti-Western political parties.

    Since the 2012 change in power, pro-Russian politicians have risen from the darkest margins of Georgian political life into an increasingly viable political force.

Since the 2012 change in power, pro-Russian politicians have risen from the darkest margins of Georgian political life into an increasingly viable political force.

Onetime pro-Western advocate turned pro-Russian political agitator Nino Burjanadze has fashioned a political coalition aimed squarely at breaking Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic consensus. In presidential and local elections in 2013 and 2014, respectively, Burjanadze managed to get about 10 percent of the vote, armed with Eurasianist rhetoric and fueled by massive influxes of what was likely Russian money. And the rapidly growing Alliance of Patriots — a populist party with anti-Western leanings, which recently held a major rally in Tbilisi — won almost 5 percent in June 2014. If these numbers hold, parliamentary elections in 2016 could very well yield a very differently oriented Georgian government. A 15 percent result would be more than enough to send pro-Russian deputies into parliament in force, shattering cross-partisan foreign-policy unity and potentially playing kingmakers in coalition talks.

Irakli Alasania, Georgia’s former defense minister, has Russia on his mind. “There are very active pro-Russia groups and thousands of protesters who are against Western integration,” he told me recently, referring to the Alliance of Patriots rally. He expressed worry that the current government is downplaying a growing Russian threat. With his own Free Democrats now part of the parliamentary opposition, the ruling Georgian Dream coalition’s ranks of solidly pro-Western parties has noticeably thinned, and the leverage of socially conservative, protectionist factions within the coalition has increased.

But this is probably only the beginning. If trends hold, Georgia’s foreign-policy consensus — long taken for granted in the West — could begin to unravel in earnest. Although Georgian Dream, to its credit, has managed to skate the knife’s edge between geopolitical pragmatism and Euro-Atlantic enthusiasm, it is increasingly losing popularity among once-hopeful voters. As things stand, parliament in 2016 looks like it will be very different from today’s parliament. The pro-Western opposition United National Movement will likely see its 51 seats slashed by half or more. In its place is likely to be a collection of openly anti-Western deputies from Burjanadze’s coalition and the Alliance of Patriots. If it stays together, Georgian Dream may well remain the largest parliamentary bloc, but the introduction of large anti-Western groupings into parliament could compel it to dilute, or even abandon, its pro-Western policies out of political necessity.

This trajectory ought to be a cause for deep concern. Even a Georgia that tried to split its orientation between the West and Moscow would likely sink into the quicksand of Russian dominance, as have each of the other paragons of this strategy — Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. This result would mean the consolidation of Russian geostrategic supremacy over the Caucasus and, with it, a complete Russian monopoly over trans-Eurasian energy and trade flows.

    There are ways the West could throw a much-needed lifeline to Georgian liberals.

There are ways the West could throw a much-needed lifeline to Georgian liberals. While the association agreement with the European Union signed last June is surely a welcome symbol, and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area has great future potential, the real prize for most ordinary Georgians is the prospect of visa-free travel to the EU. If this is introduced this year, as widely hoped, this could be a real boon for Western credibility. And if not outright NATO membership, other strong gestures, such as U.S. major non-NATO ally status, would be a relatively painless upgrade that would enshrine what is essentially the status quo while recognizing Georgia’s long-outsized dedication and contributions to the Euro-Atlantic space.

What is clear is that the days of taking Georgia’s pro-Western consensus for granted are quickly coming to a close. Russian influence is resurgent across its periphery, from Eastern Europe to the Caucasus to Central Asia, and Georgia remains a long-coveted prize. It may have taken successive military interventions, information warfare, and influence operations, but Moscow looks to be turning a corner in its bid to regain Georgia — both by hook and by crook.
131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ukraine on: March 11, 2015, 09:30:26 AM
132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Drones/UAV/UAS/Bots on: March 11, 2015, 12:29:58 AM
a) Other aircraft tend to have people on them;

b) At some point, doesn't the notion of trespassing come into play?
133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ted Kennedy ask the Soviets to intervene in 1984 elections here. on: March 10, 2015, 06:28:09 PM
134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen.Ted Cruz on: March 10, 2015, 03:59:20 PM
135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: China Deflation on: March 10, 2015, 03:25:37 PM

A modest pickup in China’s consumer inflation in February has failed to ease concerns among economists over China’s deflation risks. On the factory side, China now has seen industrial deflation for three full years, meaning manufacturers can’t raise prices and will have a difficult time justifying hiring and investment. Policy makers still need to further ease policy to head off deflation risks, many economists say.

The consumer price index, a major gauge of inflation, was up 1.4% from a year ago in February compared with January’s 0.8% increase, a five-year low. The rebound in February’s CPI was mainly due to a faster increase in food prices during the Lunar New Year holiday.

The producer price index, which measures prices at the factory gate, slid 4.8% from a year ago, worsening from January’s 4.3% drop and marking three full years of declines. It was also the biggest fall in the PPI since October 2009.
136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran responds to letter from Senators on: March 10, 2015, 01:49:52 PM

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the open letter from 47 U.S. Republican senators to Iranian leaders on the nuclear negotiations a “propaganda ploy” and suggested the senators do not understand the U.S. Constitution.

The Iranian foreign ministry posted a summary of Zarif’s comments on the letter, paraphrasing him expressing astonishment that lawmakers would write to leaders of a foreign country:

    He pointed out that from reading the open letter, it seems that the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.

“In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy,” Zarif said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrives to the Iraqi capital Baghdad on February 24, 2015 to hold a press conference with Arab country's officials. (Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrives in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, Feb. 24, 2015. (Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images)

The foreign minister said that “according to international law, Congress may not modify the terms of the agreement at any time as they claim, and if Congress adopts any measure to impede its implementation, it will have committed a material breach of U.S. obligations.”

“The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfill the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations,” Zarif said.

“Change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran’s peaceful nuclear program,” he said. “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the ‘stroke of a pen,’ as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.”

The foreign minister referred to the senators as one of the “political pressure groups.”

“It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history,” Zarif said, according to the foreign ministry.

Almost half the Senate and nearly every Republican on Monday placed their name on the letter warning Iranian leaders that it’s the role of Congress to approve international treaties, and that any executive agreement reached could be undone by the next president.

“We will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei,” they wrote in the letter to Iran. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

President Barack Obama on Monday accused those who signed the letter of making “common cause” with Iranian hardliners.

“I think it’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran,” Obama said.

Vice President Joe Biden on Monday night issued a statement blasting the Republicans, saying the letter was “expressly designed to undercut a sitting president in the midst of sensitive international negotiations” and “beneath the dignity” of the Senate.
137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: March 10, 2015, 12:28:39 PM
I have often spoken of Chinese demographic issues , , ,
138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A tale from the trenches on: March 10, 2015, 12:15:34 PM
139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Integrity in Public Life in the Torah on: March 10, 2015, 12:08:54 PM
Integrity in Public Life   Adar 19, 5775 • March 10, 2015
By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
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There is a verse so familiar that we don’t often stop to reflect on what it means. It is the line from the first paragraph of the Shema: “You shall love the L rd your G d with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your me’od.” That last word is usually translated as “strength” or “might.” But Rashi, following the Midrash and Targum translates it as “with all your wealth.”

If so, the verse seems to unintelligible, at least in the order in which it is written. “With all your Life is more important than wealth soul” was understood by the sages to mean, “with your life” if need be. There are times, thankfully very rare indeed, when we are commanded to give up life itself rather than commit a sin or a crime. If that is the case then it should go without saying that we should love G d with all our wealth, meaning, even if it demands great financial sacrifice. Yet Rashi and the sages say that this phrase applies to those “to whom wealth means more than life itself.”

Of course, life is more important than wealth. Yet the sages also knew that, in their words, Adam bahul al mammono,1 meaning: people do strange, hasty, ill-considered and irrational things when money is at stake. Financial gain can be a huge temptation, leading us to acts that harm others and ultimately ourselves. So when it comes to financial matters, especially when public funds are involved, there must be no room for temptation, no space for doubt as to whether it has been used for the purpose for which it was donated. There must be scrupulous auditing and transparency. Without this there is moral hazard: the maximum of temptation combined with the maximum of opportunity.

Hence the parsha of Pekudei, with its detailed account of how the donations to the building of the mishkan were used: “These are the amounts of the materials used for the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the Testimony, which were recorded at Moses' command by the Levites under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest.”2 The passage goes on to list the exact amounts of gold, silver and bronze collected, and the purposes to which it was put.

Why did Moses do this? A midrash suggests an answer:

“They gazed after Moses”3– People criticized Moses. They used to say to one another, “Look at that neck. Look at those legs. Moses is eating and drinking what belongs to us. All that he has belongs to us.” The other would reply: “A man who is in charge of the work of the Sanctuary – what do you expect? That he should not get rich?” As soon as he heard this, Moses replied, “By your life, as soon as the Sanctuary is complete, I will make a full reckoning with you.”4

Moses issued a detailed reckoning to avoid coming under suspicion that he had personally appropriated some of the donated money. Note the emphasis that the accounting was undertaken not by Moses himself but “by the Levites under the direction of Ithamar,” in other words, by independent auditors.

There is no hint of these accusations in the text itself, but the Midrash may be based on the remark Moses made during the Korach rebellion, “I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”5 Accusations of corruption and personal enrichment have often been leveled against leaders, with or without justification. We might think that since G d sees all we do, this is enough to safeguard against wrongdoing. Yet Judaism does not say this. The Talmud records a scene at the deathbed of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, as the master lay surrounded by his disciples:

They said to him, “Our master, bless us.” He said to them, “May it be G d's will that the fear of heaven shall be as much upon you as the fear of flesh and blood.” His disciples asked, “Is that all?” He replied, “Would that you obtained no less than such fear! You can see for yourselves the truth of what I say: when a man is about to commit a transgression, he says, I hope no man will see me.”6

When humans commit a sin they worry that other people might see them. They forget that G d certainly sees them. Temptation befuddles the brain, and no one should believe they are immune to it.

When humans sin they worry that others might see

A later passage in Tanakh seems to indicate that Moses’ account was not strictly necessary. The Book of Kings relates an episode in which, during the reign of King Yehoash, money was raised for the restoration of the Temple. “They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty.”7 Moses, a man of complete honesty, may thus have acted “beyond the strict requirement of the law.”8

It is precisely the fact that Moses did not need to do what he did, that gives the passage its force. There must be transparency and accountability when it comes to public funds even if the people involved have impeccable reputations. People in positions of trust must be, and be seen to be, individuals of moral integrity. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law had already said this when he told Moses to appoint subordinates to help him in the task of leading the people. They should be, he said, “Men who fear G d, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain.”9

Without a reputation for honesty and incorruptibility, judges cannot ensure that justice is seen to be done. This general principle was derived by the sages from the episode in the book of Numbers when the Reubenites and Gadites expressed their wish to settle on the far side of the Jordan where the land provided good grazing ground for their cattle (Numbers 32: 1-33). Moses told them that if they did so, they would demoralize the rest of the nation. They would give the impression that they were unwilling to cross the Jordan and fight with their brothers in their battles to conquer the land.

The Reubenites and Gaddites made it clear that they were willing to be in the front line of the troops, and would not return to the far side of the Jordan until the land had been fully conquered. Moses accepted the proposal, saying that if they kept their word, they would be “clear [veheyitem neki’im] before the L rd and before Israel.”10 This phrase entered Jewish law as the principle that “one must acquit oneself before one’s fellow human beings as well as before G d.”11 It is not enough to do right. We must be seen to do right, especially when there is room for rumour and suspicion.

There are several instances in the early rabbinic literature of applications of this rule. So, for example, when people came to take coins for sacrifices from the Shekel Chamber in the Temple, where the money was kept:

They did not enter the chamber wearing either a bordered cloak or shoes or sandals or tefillin or an amulet, lest if he became poor people might say that he became poor because of an iniquity committed in the chamber, or if he became rich people might say that he became rich from the appropriation in the chamber. For it is a person's duty to be free of blame before men as before G d, as it is said: “and be clear before the L rd and before Israel,”12 and it also says: “So shall thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of G d and man.”1314

Those who entered the chamber were forbidden to wear any item of clothing in which they could hide and steal coins. Similarly, when charity overseers had funds left over, they were not permitted to change copper for silver coins of their own money: they had to make the exchange with a third party. Overseers in charge of a soup kitchen were not allowed to purchase surplus food when there were no poor people to whom to distribute it. Surpluses had to be sold to others so as not to arouse suspicion that the charity overseers were profiting from public funds.15

They had to make the exchange with a third party

The Shulkhan Aruch rules that charity collection must always be done by a minimum of two individuals so that each can see what the other is doing.16 There is a difference of opinion between R. Joseph Karo and R. Moshe Isserles on the need to provide detailed accounts. R. Joseph Karo rules on the basis on the passage in II Kings – “They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty” – that no formal accounting is required from people of unimpeachable honesty. R. Moshe Isserles however says that it is right to do so because of the principle, “Be clear before the L rd and before Israel.”17

Trust is of the essence in public life. A nation that suspects its leaders of corruption cannot function effectively as a free, just and open society. It is the mark of a good society that public leadership is seen as a form of service rather than a means to power, which is all too easily abused. Tanakh is a sustained tutorial in the importance of high standards in public life. The prophets were the world’s first social critics, mandated by G d to speak truth to power and to challenge corrupt leaders. Elijah’s challenge to King Ahab, and the protests of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah against the unethical practices of their day, are classic texts in this tradition, establishing for all time the ideals of equity, justice, honesty and integrity. A free society is built on moral foundations, and those must be unshakable.

Moses’ personal example, in giving an accounting of the funds that had been collected for the first collective project of the Jewish people, set a vital precedent for all time.

Shabbat 117b.
Exodus 38:21.
Exodus 33:8.
Tanchuma, Buber, Pekudei, 4.
Numbers 16:15.
Berakhot 28b.
II Kings 12:16.
A key concept in Jewish law (see, e.g. Berakhot 7a, 45b, Baba Kamma 99b), meaning supererogation, doing more, in a positive sense, than the law requires.
Exodus 18:21.
Numbers 32:22.
Mishnah, Shekalim 3: 2.
Numbers 32:22.
Proverbs 3:4.
Mishnah, Shekalim 3: 2.
Pesachim 13a.
Shulkhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 257: 1.
Shulkhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 257: 2.

140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Money, the Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Dollar & other currencies, Gold/Silver on: March 10, 2015, 12:02:29 PM
Pretty good Doug  grin

but , , , I have come to think Scott Grannis has it right and that I (ahem, we?) did not.  What we saw as vast printing of money was not and that important elements of our hypothesis may have been wrong.

Of course I get the declining work force participation rate, but OTOH there is this:
141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-China (& Japan, South China Sea-- Vietnam, Philippines, etc) on: March 10, 2015, 11:58:43 AM
I fear you may be right on that one GM, though a case can be made that with our declining budget and their increasing budget and theft of our technology that the longer they wait, the easier it will be for them.
142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: March 10, 2015, 05:08:12 AM
Improving the GOP’s Free-Market Pitch
Capitalism’s virtues don’t easily reduce to sound bites, but that isn’t a reason to give up.
Douglas Coate
March 9, 2015 7:12 p.m. ET

As an economics professor, I have sympathy for market-oriented Republican candidates who at times seem unable to explain their economic philosophy in sound-bite form. As Milton Friedman said, the arguments for capitalism are subtle and sophisticated, while the arguments for collectivism are simple and emotional. There are at least four cornerstones of limited-government, private-property, market-price economies that create prosperity but that are not intuitively obvious and require analysis and thought to appreciate.

One is Adam Smith ’s idea of the invisible hand. Smith argued that individuals in market economies, although motivated by self interest, will be guided by an invisible hand to take actions that benefit society as a whole. A farmer works hard to grow wheat at the lowest possible cost. When he tries to sell his wheat at a high price, however, he discovers that other farmers have also worked hard to grow wheat at low cost and competition with them pushes prices down close to production costs.

This is not the outcome planned for by our self-interested farmer and his competitors, but it is great for the rest of us who get cheap food.

A second is trade. Trade between people within and across countries leads to the division of labor. People can specialize in what they do best and trade with others for what the others do best. This makes everyone more productive and more prosperous.
Photo: Corbis

This holds even for trade between peoples of highly developed countries and peoples of less-developed countries. We all have a comparative advantage in something because of differences among us and in the resources we command. Self-sufficiency at the individual or country level may be a romantic ideal, but it also means subsistence living.

A third is the market-price system. From property rights and trading come market prices as suppliers and demanders interact based on the information and resources each possess. These prices in turn guide our plans and actions as consumers or producers.

A high-school graduate makes the decision of whether to go to college or not based on the information reflected in prices. What is the price or wage of a college graduate in the labor market? What is the price or wage of a high-school graduate? What is the price of a college education? A factory owner in a market economy chooses how labor intensive or capital intensive to make his production process by looking at the wages of workers and their skills alongside the prices of the different production technologies he could use.

A factory manager in the old Soviet economy, not blessed with a market-price system, relied on the information or allocations of a central planner to guide his use of workers and machines in the production process. But the central planner was largely playing a guessing game. He did not have market prices to keep him up to date on the skills of workers in different locations and on the technologies available to them.

The fourth is that the productive resources of land, labor and capital are guided to their best use. This results from the constant feedback provided by the profit-and-loss system and from the lack of discrimination when governments are hands off.

Labor, the most important resource in market economies with educated work forces, is fully utilized, for example, because employers hire the best workers they can at prevailing wages to maximize their profits. And it is in their best interest to treat them well thereafter so they won’t leave. Any differences in wages by characteristic, such as race or gender, that do not reflect productivity, are quickly arbitraged away in the pursuit of profit. Why hire men if women are cheaper?

The counters to these arguments are that our economic system should not be based on selfishness but on caring, that international trade leads to the exporting of jobs to low-wage countries, that the best and brightest should be assembled to plan our economy because the plans of ordinary people reflected in market prices are not informed, and that discrimination and unfair treatment are everywhere if employers are free to hire, fire, pay and promote without oversight.

Nice sound bites, appealing to the emotions, and probably characteristic of too much of the K-12 and college education in this country. But, to paraphrase Friedrich Hayek, “these views lead us down the road to serfdom.” For peaceful and prosperous lives, based on personal responsibility and voluntary cooperation, capitalism is the way.

Unfortunately, I am not sure how best a political candidate might argue for capitalism and limited government in a sound bite. Maybe by borrowing from Gary Becker : “Over the past 25 years, a billion people have escaped poverty as their countries moved away from command and control, toward capitalism and freedom.”

Mr. Coate is professor of economics at Rutgers University, Newark.
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David Ziegelheim
David Ziegelheim 4 hours ago isn't free markets, it is competitive markets. "Free" markets imply no regulation; it that situation bad actors virtually always take advantage of unsuspecting buyers and sellers. Competitive markets provide protections from bad actors (e.g. title insurance on real estate) and have processes to maximize the flow of information and trust between buyers and sellers (e.g. Amazon reviews, eBay guarantees).

Second, nearly all the mechanisms Prof. Coate discussed are the how behind the "invisible hand".  Trade, price mechanisms (really the 4 P's), allocation of resources are the how of the invisible hand. And really they all track back to those price mechanisms that let a Big Mac, an iPhone, and a BMW all be evaluated under the same system.
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IAN C MADSEN 6 hours ago

Another effective tool is reductio ad absurdum.  For instance, against minimum wage hike advocates, ask them why not raise it to $30 per hour.  For those who want ever higher tax rates, why not say that they should go to 99%, even 110% for the very 'rich'.  For those who are against free trade, go them one better and suggest no exports or imports of any kind.  For those who are against luxury and abundance, recommend taking everything from everybody and not giving it to anyone at all, but just sit there to decay and become part of the Earth.  There are more.  Another tack is to point out that those places that are most market-friendly have the highest standards of living, highest growth rates, and lowest unemployment and poverty levels.  Ask why there have to be so many laws and tax codes; why not strict but fewer ones, if they are so concerned about legality and equity?  Eg., a flat 20% tax rate, no deductions; no corporate tax, as salaries and dividends are taxed at personal level.
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David Rodman
David Rodman 7 hours ago

First, use the term free markets and never use the Marxist term capitalism.

Second, go on the offensive instead of trying to make economists of everyone.

Point out that every time anyone promises to deliver more for less using government, they are selling a pipedream and trying to increase their own power.

They are selling an empty promise that government can't deliver on because:

1. Politicization - Using government turns economic decisions into political decisions, which further political interests, not economic interests, which is the point.

2. Fewer minds means poorer decisions - The few deciding for the many can never equal the power of the many deciding for themselves.

3. Corruption - the inevitable and exceedingly corrosive result of concentration of power. Examples abound.

4. Monopolization - no competition means no incentive to improve service, much less provide reasonable service at all.

These truths are self evident, irrefutable and unavoidable.

The way to change minds is to be tenacious in attacking false and self-serving progressive promises and narratives.

The light must be boldly shined on the emporer to show everyone he has no clothes.

143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen McCain: REverse military spending cuts on: March 10, 2015, 05:04:52 AM
America’s Dangerous Defense Cuts
Threats are rising around the globe, yet the U.S. is poised to cut $1 trillion from the Pentagon over 10 years.
Photo: Getty Images
John McCain And
Mac Thornberry
March 9, 2015 7:21 p.m. ET

Providing for national defense is the highest constitutional responsibility of the federal government, which congressional Republicans now share in equal measure with President Obama. We believe that the country cannot meet this responsibility within the caps on defense spending imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and sequestration. If Washington does not change course now, Republicans will share the blame for the national-security failures that will inevitably result.

There is no national-security basis for sequestration. In the past year Russia has challenged core principles of the postwar order in Europe by invading and annexing the territory of another sovereign nation. A terrorist army that has proclaimed its desire to attack the United States and its allies now controls a vast swath of territory in the heart of the Middle East.

Iran continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons while expanding its malign influence across the region. And China has stepped up its coercive behavior in Asia, backed by its rapid military modernization. Every year since the Budget Control Act was passed, the world has become more dangerous, and the threats to the nation and to American interests have grown. We do not think this is a coincidence.

And yet, under the BCA with sequestration, the U.S. must cut defense by nearly $1 trillion over 10 years. These cuts are seriously undermining the capabilities, readiness, morale and modernization of the armed forces. The senior military leaders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps have all testified to our committees that, with defense spending at sequestration levels, they cannot execute the National Military Strategy. These military leaders warned in January that sequestration is putting American lives at risk. This is a crisis of Washington’s own making.

Some advocates of the BCA are willing to overlook its damage to national security because, they claim, at least it cuts the debt. But it doesn’t even do that in a meaningful way.

Military spending is not to blame for out-of-control deficits and debt—it is now 16% of federal spending, the lowest share since before World War II. By 2020, it will be 13%. Interest on the debt soon will consume a larger portion of the federal budget than will military spending. Yet national defense took 50% of the cuts under the Budget Control Act and sequestration. The true drivers of the nation’s long-term debt—entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare—took none.

Heaping nearly $1 trillion in cuts on the U.S. military while ignoring entitlements is not conservative fiscal policy and will not solve the problems of deficits and debt.

There is widespread concern that Defense Department spending is too wasteful. Of course there is waste in the Pentagon—as everywhere in the federal government—and efforts to eliminate it must continue. But sequestration does not target Pentagon waste. It cuts spending recklessly across the board, good programs and bad. Eliminating waste, fraud and abuse is accomplished through vigorous oversight in Congress and at the Pentagon, not through blind, automatic spending cuts.

Some also believe that the impact of sequestration has been exaggerated. But when it comes to national security, “it isn’t that bad” is a dangerously low standard for government policy.

We and our fellow Republicans must also think about the future of the party we love, and from this standpoint as well, sequestration is a disaster. At a time the American people are dissatisfied with the president’s foreign-policy weakness, Republicans cannot offer themselves as the responsible national-security alternative so long as they are complicit in gutting national defense.

President Obama’s recent budget request proposed the largest budget—$534 billion—for the Defense Department in the post-9/11 era. Heeding military commanders’ warning that the military cannot execute national military strategy at sequestration levels, the president’s budget exceeds spending limits set by the Budget Control Act by $36 billion in the coming fiscal year.

America faces what Henry Kissinger has called the most “diverse and complex array of crises since the end of the Second World War.” How can Republicans—the party of Ronald Reagan and “peace through strength”—possibly justify a lower defense budget than that of President Obama?

We must aim higher by adopting a budget worthy of our party’s best traditions of strong national defense. Given the severity of the challenges facing the nation, we recommend eliminating sequestration entirely with a defense budget of $577 billion, the level set by the Budget Control Act before the debilitating effects of sequestration.

There is nothing conservative or Republican about pretending that Washington can balance the budget by cutting defense spending. The new Republican majorities in Congress should not allow such reckless policy.

Continuing to slash defense invites greater danger to national security while shamefully asking the country’s military men and women to do their jobs with shrinking resources. Without a course change, history’s judgment will be harsh, and rightfully so.

Mr. McCain is a Republican senator from Arizona. Mr. Thornberry is a Republican congressman from Texas. They are, respectively, chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.
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144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Not sure that I agree with this on: March 10, 2015, 05:02:26 AM
The Senate’s Iran Distraction
Republicans should focus on persuading the American people.
March 9, 2015 7:39 p.m. ET

President Obama ’s looming nuclear deal with Iran may be the security blunder of the young century, and Congress should vote on it. Which is why it’s too bad that Republican Senators took their eye off that ball on Monday with a letter to the government of Iran.

Forty-seven of the 54 GOP Senators signed the open letter addressed to “the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The letter explained to Tehran’s non-democratic rulers that “under our Constitution,” while the President negotiates international agreements, “Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them.”

Mr. Obama predictably denounced the letter as an attempt to undermine the talks, which are reaching their third deadline. “I think it’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran,” he told reporters. “It’s an unusual coalition.”

Equating elected Senators with the Revolutionary Guard Corps is itself a political stunt, but that’s how Mr. Obama plays. He also partly brought this intervention on himself by freezing out Congress and declaring that he’ll veto any attempt to vote on the pact. As usual, he wants to rule by executive fiat.

The problem with the GOP letter is that it’s a distraction from what should be the main political goal of persuading the American people. Democratic votes will be needed if the pact is going to be stopped, and even to get the 67 votes to override a veto of the Corker-Menendez bill to require such a vote. Monday’s letter lets Mr. Obama change the subject to charge that Republicans are playing politics as he tries to make it harder for Democrats to vote for Corker-Menendez.

The security stakes couldn’t be higher if Mr. Obama enables a new age of nuclear proliferation, and Republicans need to keep focused on a critique of the deal’s substance. Giving Mr. Obama a meaningless letter to shoot at detracts from that debate.
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145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Ferguson on: March 10, 2015, 04:55:42 AM

 Darren Wilson has been exonerated, again, in last August’s shooting death of Michael Brown, and that ought to be as much a vindication for the onetime Ferguson, Mo., police officer as it is a teachable moment for the rest of America.

It won’t be. The story line has failed, so the statistics have been put to work.

That the claims made against Mr. Wilson were doubtful should have been clear within days of Brown’s death, and again in November after a grand jury, having heard from some 60 witnesses, declined to indict the officer—an outcome one outraged commentator denounced as having “openly and shamelessly mocked our criminal justice system and laid bare the inequality of our criminal jurisprudence.”

Yet if anyone was openly and shamelessly mocking the criminal-justice system, it was so much of the media itself, credulously accepting or sanctimoniously promoting the double fable of Ferguson: that a “gentle giant” had been capriciously slain by a trigger-happy cop; and that a racist justice system stood behind that cop.

At least half that fable was put to rest last week by an exhaustive Justice Department report. It demolishes the lie that Brown was shot in the back, along with the lie that he was surrendering to Mr. Wilson, hands in the air, when he was shot. It confirms that Brown physically assaulted the officer, who had good grounds to fear for his life.

And it confirms that eyewitnesses either lied to investigators or refused to be interviewed out of fear of local vigilantes.

“Witness 109 claimed to have witnessed the shooting, stated that it was justified, and repeatedly refused to give formal statements to law enforcement for fear of reprisal should the Canfield Drive neighborhood find out that his account corroborated Wilson.”

Witness 113 “gave an account that generally corroborated Wilson, but only after she was confronted with statements she initially made in an effort to avoid neighborhood backlash. . . . She explained to the FBI that ‘You’ve gotta live the life to know it,’ and stated that she feared offering an account contrary to the narrative reported by the media that Brown held his hands up in surrender.”

Now there’s a story for the media: A community in which honest people can’t tell the truth for fear of running afoul local thugs enforcing “the narrative reported by the media.” Or is that more of a story about the media?

But let’s move to the other Ferguson fable, which is the Justice Department’s allegation, in an unfortunate second report, of systemic racism in the Ferguson police department.

For a flavor of this claim, it’s worth noting an incident recounted in the report, in which a Ferguson man was killed “after he had an ECW [Taser] deployed against him three times for allegedly running toward an officer swinging his fist.” The man “had been running naked through the streets and pounding on cars that morning while yelling ‘I am Jesus.’ ”

According to the Justice Department, this incident is an example of “overreliance on force when interacting with more vulnerable populations.”

This isn’t to say that the report doesn’t uncover more serious problems, including a number of racist emails in the department, policing that seems needlessly obnoxious or aggressive, and a municipal government desperate to prosecute every minor violation of the law in order to maximize city revenues—in effect, using cops as taxmen.

But this only demonstrates the journalistic truism that you can always find the “story” you’re looking for. Using ticket revenue and other fines to raise revenues is one of the oldest municipal tricks in the book, so much so that the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis even published a paper about it in 2006. “As local tax bases have been exhausted and public opposition to increases in local tax rates have increased over time, local governments face increased pressure to find alternative sources of revenue,” noted economists Thomas Garrett and Gary Wagner.

That turns out to be as true in Milwaukee, Nashville and Washington, D.C., as it is in Ferguson. So are we talking about institutional racism or just the usual government bloodsucking?

Then there’s the report’s abuse of statistics, notably of the fact that African-Americans are 67% of Ferguson’s population but are disproportionately arrested for crime.

Is this racism? The Missouri Statistical Analysis Center notes that in 2012 African-Americans, about 12% of the state’s population, constituted 65% of murder arrests and 62% of murder victims. To suggest that the glaring statistical disproportion between relative population size and murder rate is somehow a function of race would be erroneous and offensive. Yet tarring a police force as racist for far smaller statistical discrepancies is now one of the privileged “truths” of 21st century America.

The lesson of Darren Wilson is that there is no truth in narrative. And the lesson of Ferguson is that there is no truth in statistics. There is truth in fact. There is truth in reason. There is truth in truthfulness. Nothing less.

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146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: March 10, 2015, 04:47:32 AM

Patrick O’Connor
Updated March 9, 2015 11:35 p.m. ET

The two most recognizable figures in the 2016 presidential race start off in very different positions within their own parties, and with Americans overall feeling more positive toward Hillary Clinton than Jeb Bush .

Those findings in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll reinforce the view that while the Democrats’ nominating contest now looks like a foregone conclusion, provided Mrs. Clinton enters the race, the Republican contest appears to be wide open, with no clear front-runner.

The survey found that 86% of likely Democratic primary voters say they are open to supporting Mrs. Clinton for the party’s nomination, and 13% said they couldn’t. Those polled view the former secretary of state more favorably than unfavorably, with 44% holding positive views and 36% with negative views of her.

Mr. Bush, an early favorite for the Republican nomination among GOP donors, faces more resistance within his party. Some 49% of people who plan to vote in GOP primaries said they could see themselves supporting Mr. Bush and 42% said they couldn’t, the survey found. Poll participants view him more negatively than positively, with 34% seeing him in an unfavorable light and 23% viewing him favorably.
More than 40% of GOP primary voters could not picture supporting Jeb Bush as the Republican nominee, a new WSJ/NBC News poll finds. WSJ's Patrick O'Connor explains. Photo: Getty

The Journal/NBC poll of 1,000 adults was conducted March 1 through 5, a period when news reports surfaced disclosing Mrs. Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email account to conduct official business as secretary of state. Critics and some fellow Democrats have said the disclosures raise questions about Mrs. Clinton’s commitment to transparency in public office.

The two Republicans who begin the race on the strongest footing in the poll are Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. More than half of GOP primary voters said they were open to supporting Messrs. Rubio or Walker, compared with 49% who said so of Mr. Bush.

Resistance within the party to Messrs. Rubio and Walker is far lower than for Mr. Bush: Some 26% said they couldn’t see themselves supporting Mr. Rubio, and 17% said so of the Wisconsin governor.

The good news for Mr. Bush is that he has nearly a year to reshape his image before voting begins, and none of his likely rivals shows signs of running away with the race.
Poll Methodology

The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll was based on nationwide telephone interviews of 1,000 adults, including 350 respondents who use only a cellphone. It was conducted from March 1-5, 2015, by the polling organizations of Bill McInturff at Public Opinion Strategies and Fred Yang at Hart Research Associates. Individuals were selected proportionate to the nation’s population in accordance with a probability sample design that gives all landline telephone numbers, listed and unlisted, an equal chance to be included. Adults age 18 or over were selected by a systematic procedure to provide a balance of respondents by sex. The cellphone sample was drawn from a list of cellphone users nationally. Of the 1,000 interviews, 350 respondents were reached on a cellphone and screened to ensure their cellphone was the only phone they had. In addition, 36 respondents were reached on a cellphone but reported also having a landline. The data’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Sample tolerances for subgroups are larger.

In fact, he would begin the 2016 campaign in much the same place that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney began the 2012 race in which he locked up the nomination after a long primary slog. Mr. Romney was viewed positively by 43% of GOP primary voters and negatively by 12% about a year before primary voting began, about the same as Mr. Bush is viewed among GOP primary voters today.

“He still has room to change his image,” Mr. Yang, the Democratic pollster, said of Mr. Bush. He noted that 43% of the public is still on the fence about Mr. Bush or doesn’t know him well enough to form an opinion.

Messrs. Rubio and Walker are the two most acceptable candidates across different segments of the GOP, including very conservative voters and those moderate-to-liberal Republicans who say they would vote in a GOP primary. Of the two, Mr. Walker remains more of an unknown; more than half the country—including a quarter of Republican primary voters—said they didn’t know enough about him to form an opinion.

“We should be cautious about how unformed this race is,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democrat Fred Yang.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would start the race in a deep hole, the new survey found, with 57% of likely GOP primary voters saying they couldn’t see themselves supporting his candidacy, compared with the 32% who said they could. Only Donald Trump , the businessman and reality television star, fared worse, with three out of four primary voters doubtful they could support him.

Mrs. Clinton would enter the 2016 race enjoying widespread support across just about every slice of the potential Democratic electorate, with 80% or more of every sub-group-men, women, liberals, centrist, whites and non-whites among them-saying they could see themselves voting for her.

“Sen. Clinton’s numbers are just extraordinary,” said Mr. McInturff. “She is like one of those large naval ships. It will take more than one torpedo to sink the boat.”

One attribute of both Mr. Bush and Mrs. Clinton—their membership in prominent political families—seems to weigh on them to varying degrees. Some 59% of those polled say they are looking for a presidential candidate “who will bring greater changes” over one who is “more experienced and tested.”

Some 51% view Mrs. Clinton, a former first lady and New York senator, more as a return to the past than a candidate for the future, compared with the 44% who say the reverse, according to the new poll.

For Mr. Bush, 60% of the country sees the first-time White House hopeful—the son and brother of the last two Republican presidents—as a figure representing the past, compared with the 27% who agreed with the statement that he would bring “new ideas and vision the country will need for the future.”

“We just seem to be stuck in this rut—the Clintons and the Bushes,” said Isabel Sovocool, a 43-year-old preschool teacher from Quakertown, Pa., who voted for Mr. Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush, and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, but has no desire to vote for the former Florida governor. “It just seems to go around in circles. And I don’t think things are getting all that better.”

The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 3.1%, but higher for the Republican and Democratic primary voters.

The survey pointed to a challenge for Republicans in addressing middle-class economic anxieties. Nearly half of all respondents, some 47%, said the GOP doesn’t represent the values of the middle class “very well,” compared with the 33% who said that about Democrats. Similarly, Mrs. Clinton scored much higher on the question than Mr. Bush.

Additionally, those polled are more likely to see improvements in the economy than they were a year ago. Almost half, some 47%, credited President Barack Obama for those gains.

The survey also found that Americans are willing to adopt a war footing against Islamic State. Some 55% of the country would look more favorably on a candidate who supports the use of combat troops to battle the Islamic militants. That includes roughly three-out-of-four Republicans and a plurality of liberal Democratic primary voters.
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147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: No till farming on: March 10, 2015, 04:31:04 AM
FORT WORTH — Gabe Brown is in such demand as a speaker that for every invitation he accepts, he turns down 10 more. At conferences, like the one held here at a Best Western hotel recently, people line up to seek his advice.

“The greatest roadblock to solving a problem is the human mind,” he tells audiences.

Mr. Brown, a balding North Dakota farmer who favors baseball caps and red-striped polo shirts, is not talking about disruptive technology start-ups, political causes, or the latest self-help fad.

He is talking about farming, specifically soil-conservation farming, a movement that promotes leaving fields untilled, “green manures” and other soil-enhancing methods with an almost evangelistic fervor.

Such farming methods, which mimic the biology of virgin land, can revive degenerated earth, minimize erosion, encourage plant growth and increase farmers’ profits, their proponents say. And by using them, Mr. Brown told more than 250 farmers and ranchers who gathered at the hotel for the first Southern Soil Health Conference, he has produced crops that thrive on his 5,000-acre farm outside of Bismarck, N.D., even during droughts or flooding.
“My goal is to improve my soil so I can grow a better crop so I can make more money,” said Mr. McAlister, who farms 6,000 acres of drought-stricken cropland. Credit Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times

He no longer needs to use nitrogen fertilizer or fungicide, he said, and he produces yields that are above the county average with less labor and lower costs. “Nature can heal if we give her the chance,” Mr. Brown said.

Neatly tilled fields have long been a hallmark of American agriculture and its farmers, by and large traditionalists who often distrust practices that diverge from time-honored methods.

But soil-conservation farming is gaining converts as growers increasingly face extreme weather, high production costs, a shortage of labor and the threat of government regulation of agricultural pollution.

Farmers like Mr. Brown travel the country telling their stories, and organizations like No-Till on the Plains — a Kansas-based nonprofit devoted to educating growers about “agricultural production systems that model nature” — attract thousands.

“It’s a massive paradigm shift,” said Ray Archuleta, an agronomist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the federal Agriculture Department, which endorses the soil-conservation approach.

Government surveys suggest that the use of no-tillage farming has grown sharply over the last decade, accounting for about 35 percent of cropland in the United States.

For some crops, no-tillage acreage has nearly doubled in the last 15 years. For soybeans, for example, it rose to 30 million acres in 2012 from 16.5 million acres in 1996. The planting of cover crops — legumes and other species that are rotated with cash crops to blanket the soil year-round and act as green manure — has also risen in acreage about 30 percent a year, according to surveys, though the total remains small.

Farmers till the land to ready it for sowing and to churn weeds and crop residue back into the earth. Tilling also helps mix in fertilizers and manure and loosens the top layer of the soil.  But repeated plowing exacts a price. It degrades soil, killing off its biology, including beneficial fungi and earthworms, and leaving it, as Mr. Archuleta puts it, “naked, thirsty, hungry and running a fever.”

Degraded soil requires heavy applications of synthetic fertilizer to produce high yields. And because its structure has broken down, the soil washes away easily in heavy rain, taking nitrogen and other pollutants with it into rivers and streams.  Soil health proponents say that by leaving fields unplowed and using cover crops, which act as sinks for nitrogen and other nutrients, growers can increase the amount of organic matter in their soil, making it better able to absorb and retain water.

“Each 1 percent increase in soil organic matter helps soil hold 20,000 gallons more water per acre,” said Claire O’Connor, a staff lawyer and agriculture specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In turn, more absorbent soil is less vulnerable to runoff and more resistant to droughts and floods. Cover crops also help suppress weeds. Environmental groups like the Defense Council have long been fans of soil-conservation techniques because they help protect waterways and increase the ability of soil to store carbon dioxide, rather than releasing it into the air, where it contributes to climate change.

One recent study led by the Environmental Defense Fund suggested that the widespread use of cover crops and other soil-health practices could reduce nitrogen pollution in the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River basins by 30 percent, helping to shrink the giant “dead zone” of oxygen-depleted water in the Gulf of Mexico. The Defense Council, Ms. O’Connor said, has proposed that the government offer a “good driver” discount on federal crop insurance for growers who incorporate the practices.

But the movement also has critics, who argue that no-tillage and other methods are impractical and too expensive for many growers. A farmer who wants to shift to no-tillage, for example, must purchase new equipment, like a no-till seeder.

Tony J. Vyn, a professor of agronomy at Purdue, said the reasons growers cite for preferring to fully till their fields vary depending on geography, the types of crops they grow and the conditions of their soil. But they include the perception that weed control is harder using no-tillage; that the method, which reduces water evaporation, places limits on how early in the year crops can be planted; and that the residue left by no-tilling is too difficult to deal with, especially when corn is the primary cash crop.

Even farmers who enthusiastically adopt no-till and other soil-conservation methods rarely do so for environmental reasons; their motivation is more pragmatic.

“My goal is to improve my soil so I can grow a better crop so I can make more money,” said Terry McAlister, who farms 6,000 acres of drought-stricken cropland in North Texas. “If I can help the environment in the process, fine, but that’s not my goal.”

For years, Mr. McAlister plowed his fields, working with his father, who began farming outside the town of Electra in the 1950s. But he began having doubts about the effects of constant tilling on the soil.

“We were farming cotton like the West Texas guys were, just plow, plow, plow,” he said. “And if you got a rain, it just washed it and eroded it. It made me sick. You’re asking yourself, ‘Is there not a better way?’ But at the time, we didn’t know.”

Mr. McAlister said that he switched to no-tillage in 2005, when an agricultural economist calculated that the method offered a $15-per-acre advantage over full tilling.  Now he is a convert. Standing in a field of winter wheat, he pointed proudly at the thick blanket of stubble sprinkled with decaying radishes and turnips.

“One of the toughest things about learning to do no-till is having to unlearn all the things that you thought were true,” he said.

Mr. McAlister grows cotton, wheat, hay, grain sorghum and some canola as cash crops, using a GPS-guided no-till seeder that drills through residue, allowing him to plant precisely and effectively.  He credits no-tillage for one of his biggest wheat crops, in 2012, when extreme drought left farmers throughout the region struggling to salvage any harvest. His healthier soil, he believes, made better use of the tiny amount of rain that fell than did the fully tilled fields of other farmers.  But few growers go as far as Mr. Brown in North Dakota, who produces grass-fed beef and has given up most agricultural chemicals. Mr. McAlister, for example, still uses nitrogen fertilizer. He plants seeds that are genetically modified for drought or herbicide resistance. And he depends on herbicides like Roundup to kill off his cover crops before sowing the crops he grows for cash.

The philanthropist Howard G. Buffett, a proponent of soil-conservation practices, said that the drought and flooding that have plagued much of the country in recent years have drawn more farmers to no-till.

“When you get into a drought, that gets everybody’s attention,” said Mr. Buffett, the middle son of Warren E. Buffett, the billionaire investor. “Farmers don’t really change their behavior until they see that they have to, which is pretty much human nature.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay under the Clean Water Act in 2010, Mr. Buffett said, should also be “a wake-up call that the E.P.A. is coming soon” and if farmers do not address fertilizer runoff, the government will do it for them.  Still, he said, reaping the benefits of no-tillage farming demands patience, given that it may take several years for deadened soil to recover. Some farmers try no-tilling for one season and then get discouraged. And there is no one-size-fits-all solution: Farmers must adapt what they have learned to their own land and crops.

Mr. McAlister and other no-till farmers said that perhaps the biggest barrier to the spread of no-till is the mind-set that farmers must do things the same way as earlier generations did them.

“We have a saying in our area: ‘You can’t no-till because you haven’t buried your father yet,’” Mr. McAlister said.

“You can’t take on an endeavor like this with someone leaning over your shoulder every day telling you you’re wrong and it’s not going to work,” he said.
148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Stop NSA spying on wikipediq on: March 10, 2015, 04:18:21 AM
SAN FRANCISCO — TODAY, we’re filing a lawsuit against the National Security Agency to protect the rights of the 500 million people who use Wikipedia every month. We’re doing so because a fundamental pillar of democracy is at stake: the free exchange of knowledge and ideas.

Our lawsuit says that the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance of Internet traffic on American soil — often called “upstream” surveillance — violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects the right to privacy, as well as the First Amendment, which protects the freedoms of expression and association. We also argue that this agency activity exceeds the authority granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that Congress amended in 2008.

Most people search and read Wikipedia anonymously, since you don’t need an account to view its tens of millions of articles in hundreds of languages. Every month, at least 75,000 volunteers in the United States and around the world contribute their time and passion to writing those articles and keeping the site going — and growing.

On our servers, run by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, those volunteers discuss their work on everything from Tiananmen Square to gay rights in Uganda. Many of them prefer to work anonymously, especially those who work on controversial issues or who live in countries with repressive governments.

These volunteers should be able to do their work without having to worry that the United States government is monitoring what they read and write. Unfortunately, their anonymity is far from certain because, using upstream surveillance, the N.S.A. intercepts and searches virtually all of the international text-based traffic that flows across the Internet “backbone” inside the United States. This is the network of fiber-optic cables and junctions that connect Wikipedia with its global community of readers and editors.

As a result, whenever someone overseas views or edits a Wikipedia page, it’s likely that the N.S.A. is tracking that activity — including the content of what was read or typed, as well as other information that can be linked to the person’s physical location and possible identity. These activities are sensitive and private: They can reveal everything from a person’s political and religious beliefs to sexual orientation and medical conditions.

The notion that the N.S.A. is monitoring Wikipedia’s users is not, unfortunately, a stretch of the imagination. One of the documents revealed by the whistle-blower Edward J. Snowden specifically identified Wikipedia as a target for surveillance, alongside several other major websites like, Gmail and Facebook. The leaked slide from a classified PowerPoint presentation declared that monitoring these sites could allow N.S.A. analysts to learn “nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet.”

The harm to Wikimedia and the hundreds of millions of people who visit our websites is clear: Pervasive surveillance has a chilling effect. It stifles freedom of expression and the free exchange of knowledge that Wikimedia was designed to enable.
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During the 2011 Arab uprisings, Wikipedia users collaborated to create articles that helped educate the world about what was happening. Continuing cooperation between American and Egyptian intelligence services is well established; the director of Egypt’s main spy agency under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi boasted in 2013 that he was “in constant contact” with the Central Intelligence Agency.
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Whoever taught President Obama constitutional lawshould be fired, ....if they're still around.At the very least they should hang their heads...
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Politics and science is never a good mix.Before we know it we the people are corralled beyond an imaginary boundary so freedom can't escape.
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There is no question that the NSA and the system that spawns it has no respect for anything other than their own goals. A lawsuit--which...

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So imagine, now, a Wikipedia user in Egypt who wants to edit a page about government opposition or discuss it with fellow editors. If that user knows the N.S.A. is routinely combing through her contributions to Wikipedia, and possibly sharing information with her government, she will surely be less likely to add her knowledge or have that conversation, for fear of reprisal.

And then imagine this decision playing out in the minds of thousands of would-be contributors in other countries. That represents a loss for everyone who uses Wikipedia and the Internet — not just fellow editors, but hundreds of millions of readers in the United States and around the world.

In the lawsuit we’re filing with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, we’re joining as a fellow plaintiff a broad coalition of human rights, civil society, legal, media and information organizations. Their work, like ours, requires them to engage in sensitive Internet communications with people outside the United States.

That is why we’re asking the court to order an end to the N.S.A.’s dragnet surveillance of Internet traffic.

Privacy is an essential right. It makes freedom of expression possible, and sustains freedom of inquiry and association. It empowers us to read, write and communicate in confidence, without fear of persecution. Knowledge flourishes where privacy is protected.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, is a board member of the Wikimedia Foundation, of which Lila Tretikov is the executive director.
149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gowdy on State Dept as arbiter of Hillary's emails on: March 10, 2015, 12:23:29 AM
150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Chinese Submarines on: March 09, 2015, 09:52:04 PM

Despite making significant progress in developing their submarine arm, the Chinese nuclear submarine force is still far behind the full reach and capabilities of the United States silent service. It will take decades to even reach parity with the U.S. Navy, and even with advanced technology, China lacks the institutional knowledge, skills and expertise of a more venerable, seasoned force.

Beijing said on March 5 that its official military budget would increase by 10.1 percent in 2015, continuing a decades old trend of double digit funding increases for Beijing's armed forces, year-on-year. Alongside the other branches of the Chinese military, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) submarine force stands to benefit from continued significant investment going forward.

The Chinese announcement follows remarks made by Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of Naval operations, integration of capabilities and resources, on Feb. 25 to the U.S. House Seapower and Projections Forces subcommittee on the status of the Chinese navy. Admiral Mulloy highlighted what he referred to as a tremendous growth rate in the Chinese submarine arm, indicating that the Chinese are now producing some "fairly amazing" submarines. Following the remarks, a number of Chinese analysts retorted that the United States military was once again exaggerating the Chinese threat in an attempt to secure increased Congressional funding at a time of budget uncertainty in Washington.

Though the Pentagon is right to point out continued and impressive Chinese headway in modernizing their armed forces, the Chinese nuclear submarine fleet is not nearly as capable as official remarks may suggest. As an entity, the People's Liberation Army Navy lacks the expertise and institutional knowledge possessed by navies with a centuries-long heritage, like the United States Navy or the British Royal Navy.
Late Bloomers

It is true that the Chinese submarine force has made tremendous progress over the last decade. It is also true that the number of overall Chinese attack submarines, both diesel and nuclear powered, has grown rapidly, surpassing the number of commissioned U.S. nuclear attack submarines — craft designed specifically to engage other submarines or surface vessels. Critically, the Chinese are also spending large amounts of time at sea building up their expertise in training and patrols. The number of PLAN submarine sorties has approximately quadrupled over the last five years or so. As Admiral Mulloy stated, Beijing's nuclear ballistic missile submarines — distinct from their hunter-killer brethren in that they can launch intercontinental ballistic missiles from beneath the ocean surface — are almost ready for deterrence patrols, with one of these submarines having spent more than three months at sea during a trial patrol.

However, the Chinese are without a doubt still far behind the U.S. Navy's submarine service, especially in terms of fielding a nuclear submarine force capable of global reach and sustained operations. With a number of advanced diesel-electric Yuan-class submarines already in service, and improved models under construction, the Chinese are increasingly well positioned to utilize their diesel submarines in the sea denial role around China's coastal waters.

U.S., China: Exploring the Undersea Balance
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The Chinese doctrine in regard to its periphery is what can be referred to as a counter intervention strategy based on preventing or limiting U.S. and allied access into the Chinese near seas. From Beijing's point of view, these include the Yellow, East China and South China seas. Chinese conventional submarines would be used to interdict enemy vessels as they approach the Chinese near seas by conducting operations in the larger sea space between what China calls the first and second island chains — roughly speaking, the Philippine Sea.
Future Aspirations

The long-term Chinese ambition is, however, to develop a strong force of nuclear powered submarines for global force projection and the escort of carrier task groups and nuclear ballistic submarines. In this respect, China is still far behind the United States. In terms of the development of critical nuclear propulsion and quieting technology, the latest Chinese commissioned nuclear attack submarine, the Type-93 Shang-class, is broadly equivalent to the U.S. Sturgeon-class of late 1960s vintage. Even taking into account improved Chinese Type-93B submarines undergoing sea trials, the Chinese have not surpassed the capabilities displayed by early versions of the U.S. Los Angeles-class submarines of late 1970s vintage.

Furthermore, China has only started to seriously invest in anti-submarine warfare capabilities, an area in which they are sorely lacking. Even with its limited capability, Beijing is still much better prepared for anti-submarine operations in its peripheral waters than in the global commons. The introduction into service of the Shaanxi Y-8Q maritime patrol aircraft — with its seven-meter-long Magnetic Anomaly Detector boom designed to identify submarines — is a welcome addition. Yet, it will take almost a decade to produce the required number of anti-submarine aircraft and associated surface corvettes to seriously contend with the threat of U.S. submarine operations in the East and South China Seas. For anti-submarine warfare operations far from home, the Chinese are even less prepared.

In his statement, Admiral Mulloy acknowledged that U.S. submarines remain superior to Chinese ones. But, his remark about China producing some "fairly amazing" submarines mischaracterizes and overplays the Chinese underwater force, particularly its nuclear submarines. Relatively speaking, and given the qualitative difference between the U.S. and Chinese nuclear submarine force in particular, if the latest Chinese submarines are "fairly amazing" then the latest U.S. Virginia class submarines could only be described as "phenomenal."

It is worth reiterating that the Chinese have made and continue to make remarkable advances in submarine development. They are particularly innovative in fielding increasingly capable diesel-electric boats suited for the primary mission of sea denial close to home. Even in terms of nuclear boats, the large technological gap between the U.S. and Chinese submarine force is closing rapidly, with the next generation Chinese Type-95 submarines already under construction. It will take decades, however, for China to reach technological parity with the United States, internalize global operational procedures and operate an equivalent number of nuclear attack submarines.
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